The importance of PPE for you and your employees
By Joanna Weekes
Getting your workers to take care of themselves can sometimes be the hardest part of supervising them. After a while you may give up on the particularly stubborn ones… But for safety leaders, this can never be an option!
While you are legally responsible for the safety of your employees during their time at work, your employees need to know how much responsibility they have on their shoulders in terms of working safely; both for themselves and for their colleagues.
At the end of the day, no matter how many safety precautions we take and how many measure we implement to reduce and eliminate safety hazards, people still get hurt. This is reality.
But one thing that can absolutely be done as a minimum to try to control risks is the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Now, it is certainly your job as a safety leader to train people in what they need to be using, how it needs to be used, when it needs to be used, and to supervise the use of the PPE, but at the end of the day, it is in the employee’s hands to actually do it. And they’re the ones who will be injured if this doesn’t happen.
Therefore, it is essential to teach your employees the basics so that they understand the aim of what they might consider to be a lot of red tape.
So while we have our procedures and policies and records and slogans, it is so important to have the physical measures in place that can make a real difference in preventing injuries and illnesses in your workplace.
For more detailed information about PPE and how it should be used, please refer to chapter P2 Personal Protective Equipment in your Health & Safety Handbook.
In the meantime, here’s a snippet that will help you to enforce the use of PPE where necessary in your workplace…
Teach from the bottom up…
If you’re currently experiencing a problem with getting workers to use their PPE, the best thing to do is rewrite your contracts so they include an extra clause. It should state that failure to adhere to health and safety regulations may lead to disciplinary action and/or possible dismissal.
You’ll need to enforce this rule and punish offenders accordingly if you don’t want employees to feel that they’re being singled out.
Also make sure that employees understand they could be fined or sentenced to a jail term if an inspector finds them guilty of negligence.
Step-by-step: How to ensure that PPE is used when necessary
Step 1: Ensure that you consult with employees before introducing the equipment. Employees who perform the relevant functions are in the best position to provide information about the operational requirements of the job and the risks and hazards associated with it.
Step 2: Clearly signpost locations or activities which require the use of specific PPE. In addition, this information should be included in manuals which set out operating procedures.
Step 3: Adopt a policy which requires all staff to use the PPE provided in specified circumstances. The policy should make it clear that employees who do not use equipment as directed (including caring for and maintaining it) will be disciplined.
Step 4: Ensure that supervisors are given direct responsibility for ensuring that the policy is complied with. Remind them that they will be subject to disciplinary action if the equipment is not used consistently, or maintained appropriately. You must ensure that all supervisors are trained in the selection and use of PPE.
Step 5: Store protective clothing and equipment in a location which is accessible to employees who need to use it. It must be stored in a way which is safe and secure.
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