Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is one of the most important parts of effective risk management and it is a cornerstone of health and safety. Yet too many times we see the occurrence of accidents, injuries and even fatalities that could have been prevented by proper use of PPE. Just recently in the US, three utility workers lost their lives when they were overcome by poisonous gases that, unbeknownst to them, had built up underground over the course of years. The sad reality is that they would have survived had they used their masks and air packs.
This terrible tragedy has shone a new light on the importance of PPE and the issue of getting workers to comply with PPE policy.
What stands in the way of PPE use?
Lack of Training
The most obvious reason for workers to not wear protective gear is that they were never formally trained to wear it in the first place. Sometimes during training or inductions, PPE is more of a casual recommendation rather than an imperative. Supervisors or those conducting training need to strongly emphasise not only the importance of PPE, but also that they will not tolerate the absence of it.
Lack of Procedure
While training is step one to ensuring PPE use becomes policy, it is the follow up of procedure that will ingrain PPE as a non-negotiable. Supervisors need to keep an eye on workers to ensure they are using PPE correctly and at all times and it should be communicated that disciplinary action will be taken if PPE is not consistently used or maintained. This is where policy becomes habit.
Poor Perception of Risk
Often people view safety measures such as PPE as red tape, forgetting the very real reason that they exist: to protect us! And so we take risks to get the job done quickly. If workers aren’t reminded of the risks associated with their tasks, they are more likely to cut corners in order to be more efficient, which leads to accidents and injuries.
One of the major reasons as to why people don’t use PPE while on the job boils down to good old fashioned complacency. When we’ve been doing the same thing over and over, we often feel over confident about our expertise. We think about how unlikely it is for us to make a mistake. But what we fail to account for is the broad spectrum of other safety factors that need to be considered. We can’t ever be in complete control of our environments and therefore anything can happen.
The use of PPE needs to become an ingrained habit for all, where it is conceived as part of the process; a necessary step in achieving a task, rather than an obstacle in the way of it. Protective equipment needs to be viewed in the same way as turning the key in an ignition is the necessary step to driving a car. It must be done if one is to drive the car.
To build this perception of PPE, it is imperative that supervisors train thoroughly, discipline misuse, and encourage and remind workers daily. Workers themselves must form the habit of using PPE correctly, see it as non-negotiable part of doing the job, and encourage their coworkers to do the same.
The reality is that we can never eliminate every safety hazard, but we can definitely mitigate risks by using PPE. It can save lives.
To better manage yor PPE, find out how Vault software allows you to register, categorise, assign and keep track of all PPE, easily and efficiently. Book a live demonstration of our software today and get the most of out of your investment in protection.
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