OSEA Safety News

The Forgotten Question in PPE Training

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

Even employers who have carefully researched the options, carefully and comprehensively prepared the personal protective equipment (PPE) hazard analysis and involved employees in the selection of PPE, then ensured that it is comfortable, attractive, and fits properly, still struggle to get workers to use it. Training often focuses on how to properly wear PPE, when it should be worn, the limitations, how to care for it, and how to determine if it is damaged.

Missing or generalized is the question, "Why?" A common reason PPE is not used is the employees do not think about it because they are rushed or tired or they believe it is not necessary for the task. Employees may have performed the same task for many years and have never been injured. In their mind, there is no compelling reason to use it.

Many people don't like reading big chunks of text or listening to boring PowerPoint presentations, so you might want to rethink your training program. In this digital age, there are countless resources for case studies, visuals, and streaming videos relating to PPE. Personal accounts from people who have suffered injuries or illness when not wearing PPE are most effective when they are relevant, concise, and compelling.

Be selective... don't focus on fear mongering or cheesy humor that can trivialize the importance of PPE. Humor can be effective, when it fits the situation. Sending a periodic email or text to employees with a visual or video is a good way to supplement regular toolbox talks on PPE and keep it on their mind till it becomes automatic.

The message should not be one of compliance but why employees shouldn't let their guard down on how quickly accidents can happen, how wearing PPE can protect against other people's mistakes, and how it isn't just about them, it's about their future, family, co-workers, friends, and even pets, etc. Make it urgent and appeal to them with compelling stories. It can also be helpful to have a bulletin board in the staff room or where workers store their PPE. Encourage people to pin pictures of family, friends, pets, or whatever motivates them to stay safe every day. Make it personal!

It's important to stay focused on changing the desired behavior. If someone is not wearing PPE, they should be asked "Why?" and a dialogue begun. Ultimately, the goal is to transform PPE use into an unconscious habit.

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