Many safety managers struggle with convincing employees to wear all of their personal protective equipment properly whenever it is required. Achieving 100% PPE utilization requires managers to address employee concerns and create an environment where employees are motivated to adhere to safety protocols. Read on for several tips for achieving full PPE compliance.
Why Do Employees Refuse To Wear PPE?
Since PPE is intended to keep them safe, it can be frustrating when workers refuse to use company-provided safety equipment. However, progressive discipline programs that penalize failure to wear PPE often create more work for the managers responsible for policing behavior, particularly when they are implemented without other measures.
Learning why employees refuse to wear protective equipment allows managers to remove obstacles to compliance and create a “no excuses” environment where employees regulate their own behavior. Rationales for PPE refusal vary, but many of the most common reasons given are:
- Employer-provided PPE is uncomfortable, ill-fitting, restricts movement, or interferes with essential duties
- Required equipment is too complicated to use and takes too much time to don or doff
- A belief that safety procedures are unnecessary or don’t employees
To improve participation in safety programs, managers should tailor their plans to address whichever of these complaints is most likely at issue.
How Should Managers Respond to Objections?
When designing a new safety program, managers can try several approaches to minimize the likelihood that employees will object to wearing PPE. Consider any of the following tactics:
- Involve employees in selecting PPE. You can ask for feedback about fit, materials, sizing, and comfort. Workers are more likely to wear protective equipment when it’s comfortable, and they’re more likely to endorse wearing PPE if they were partly responsible for choosing the equipment. It’s important to guide workers’ choices so that they can only choose from safe equipment that meets Occupational Safety and Health Administration Standards, so read this extensive guide to workplace PPE before presenting options to your team.
- Make sizing and fit testing a routine part of employee responsibilities. Since workers are less likely to wear PPE when it doesn’t fit them properly, and they won’t be as protected from hazards, it’s critical to ensure that problems with fit can be caught and addressed early.
- Focus on why safety is important for employees. Workers may believe that OSHA regulations are purely inconveniences, but safety standards preserve their health on and off the job. At safety meetings, ask workers to offer their own motivations for working safely, such as providing for family members or enjoying active hobbies. Collect their answers on a poster and display it prominently in the work area so that employees are reminded of self-endorsed reasons to participate in workplace PPE programs.
- Convey the usefulness of PPE in various hazard situations in the workplace. When employees believe that safety procedures are optional, you can expect compliance to progressively decrease. Take advantage of safety meetings to explain in appropriate detail how each piece of equipment required serves employees in a hazardous situation, and communicate expected negative outcomes when PPE is not worn.
What Should Managers Do To Maintain PPE Usage?
If you implement a successful program that increases safety equipment usage, make sure you have a plan to sustain those results. Post reminders about PPE around the work area in clear language and offer translated versions if they’re necessary for your workforce. Enforce PPE usage with clear policies and penalties.
Finally, set a good example by wearing PPE whenever you’re in a hazardous situation! Even if it’s only for a minute, employees will take safety culture more seriously if you participate, and the right PPE might just save your life.
Author | Emily Forbes
An Entrepreneur, Mother & A passionate tech writer in the technology industry!