Several days ago OSHA announced that they issued safety citations to three Chicago-based construction companies who worked on restoring Chicago’s Old Post Office. The proposed penalty for the resulting 31 citations totaled $220,497. OSHA inspected the job site after receiving notice from both the Chicago and Illinois Departments of Public Health that one of the workers doing sandblasting at the site had elevated lead levels in their blood.
The results of OSHA’s inspection revealed that all three companies failed to follow the proper procedures for providing respiratory protection and the proper handling of personal protective equipment. Additional citations included failing to provide workers with relevant training and having a written lead compliance program.
When a workplace presents a risk that can’t be eliminated or mitigated, personal protective equipment (PPE) is what prevents workers from injury. PPE saves lives, but many workers resist using PPE because it’s often uncomfortable or restricts movement. If management doesn’t encourage workers to wear PPE, companies open themselves up to the kind of fines that the Chicago companies above experienced. Here are 5 ways to motivate employees to wear their PPE.
- Explain the importance of PPE. Often, workers aren’t committed to using PPE because they don’t understand why it’s necessary. Talk to them about the dangers of the equipment or location they’re in. Explain what could happen if they’re not using PPE (in detail) and how the PPE protects them. When workers are able to envision the results of an accident, they’re more likely to want protection.
- Get employees involved. Have workers create their own “Why I Work Safe” boards, where they post pictures of loved ones or even a favorite hobby they couldn’t do if they were injured. Place the boards where the employees will see them daily, and have workers update them quarterly or yearly so they stay motivational.
- Take employee input. Listen to your workers’ preferences on model and brand of PPE. If a certain type is more comfortable for them, try to accommodate their preferences. They’ll be much more likely to wear it — because it’s more comfortable and because you took the time to listen.
- Show proper use and fit. If workers aren’t shown how to properly wear PPE, there are a couple of problems. First, the PPE is likely to fail when worn incorrectly. Second, the PPE will probably be uncomfortable. Each incoming employee should be shown and trained how to wear and use the PPE required for his or her job, and employees who have been around a while need a regular refresher.
- Lead by example. When you, as an owner or manager, are out on the floor or in the field, be sure you’re wearing PPE — even if it “will only be a few minutes.” Your employees will take PPE seriously only if you do.
In the event of an accident, your employees will be glad you insisted on PPE. And these tips can help you generate internal motivation to keep workers wearing their PPE, rather than simply relying on disciplinary measures.
The benefits of keeping your workers healthy not only include increasing worker productivity, but also shielding the company from fines or litigation expenses related to safety infractions.