Let’s be honest – how many employees hop skip and jump when it comes to putting on protective gear. Personal protective equipment (PPE for short) is as necessary as it is beloved. I know several people in the construction and mining industries and, well, in a word they hate it. They understand why it’s necessary and have as many stories about gruesome near-misses as they have of how they dislike wearing PPE.
Basically, it’s a case of common sense versus personal comfort. Personal comfort will always have the initial upper hand, but their stories always end with “We don’t like it, but we sure do need it.”
I’ve rounded up some common myths among employees about Personal protective equipment for which you need to prepared – the truth is, it’s not negotiable and definitely not optional.
Employee: “You can’t force me to wear PPE”
Yes, um, you can. You are the Barack Obama of your workplace – if you want to force them to wear the prescribed PPE, then YES – YOU CAN! As long as you or your safety manager has made the decision that it is necessary, it stops being optional.
Employee: “The more PPE, the better for me”
It’s as dangerous to wear too much Personal protective equipment as it is to wear too little. You need to find the balance between exposing your employees to hazards through too little PPE and creating hazards such as injury and heat exhaustion through too much. The right amount is when employees are adequately protected against hazards while still maintain personal comfort levels.
Employee: “PPE will hinder me in doing my job”
Yes… face protectors, goggles and gloves does limit dexterity and the ability to see and hear to an extent, but using the correct, modern PPE will eliminate this hindrance. Wear textures gloves, eye protection that fits properly and ear protectors that eliminates only harmful levels of noise. Personal protective equipment has been designed to protect you while still ensuring that you are fully functional – if you weren’t functional, it would defeat the point.
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Employee: “Putting on PPE takes too long, I just quickly want to do something”
Accidents usually happen within the blink of an eye. And wearing PPE can determine whether you lose or keep that eye, so yes – I’m thinking it’s worth the time to put it on. PPE is like a space suit in outer space – without it you’re in trouble, whether you’re in a hazardous area/situation for a minute or an hour.
Employee: “Cleaning and storing PPE is not my job”
If my life lay in the hands of something as easy to maintain as Personal protective equipment, I would be the first one to make sure it is maintained perfectly – after all, my life literally depends on it. PPE is like a parachute – it better work and work the way it should when you need it, because you only get one shot if the stuff hits the fan. Make sure that you follow cleaning and storage instructions to the letter. Report any damage or wear and tear immediately, and encourage your colleagues to make PPE maintenance their priority too.
PPE has the magical ability to turn even the most respectful and most responsible employees into rebels and risk-takers. Now that you are armed with answers to their biggest objections, rest assured that your PPE policy will be followed from now on, even if only slightly less pouty faces.
One last thing: It’s not just about wearing PPE. The best defence against accidents and injuries remains what is under the hard hat – your brain. Or rather, your common sense. Blades and sharp objects can still cut through rubber gloves and safety goggles, and few hard hats can really withstand a rock fall (or a 20-meter fall off scaffolding, for that matter). Use your noggin and stay safe. Wear the appropriate Personal protective equipment for the job you’re doing, but also stay alert at all times and anticipate what can go wrong so that you can use your PPE to your advantage.
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