Four Steps To Effective Personal Protective Equipment
PPE equipment cannot help to protect workers if it is not worn, not worn correctly, not used correctly or used in the wrong circumstances. There are too many examples every year of workers being injured as a direct result of not wearing or not wearing properly PPE equipment which has been provided by the employer. In a few cases this may well result in the employer being liable for the accident, but in many cases every year the employer is taken to court and fined substantial sums of money through negligence. This is not because they failed to provide effective safety equipment, but because they failed to ensure that training was as effective as it should be.
It is the combination of the right equipment and the best training which helps to ensure workers are safe. When it comes to safety equipment training there are three main issues to take into consideration: understanding the equipment, understanding how to use the equipment and understanding about exceptions. Additionally it's important to make sure that in any situation where problems are identified, with workers failing to wear equipment either correctly or at all, this situation is addressed immediately and appropriately.
The first aspect then is about training workers in understanding the equipment. This means making sure that workers understand why the PPE equipment is needed, when it should be worn or used, how to identify when personal protective equipment is faulty or worn, and understanding the limitations of the safety equipment. In cases where the equipment or clothing is worn or faulty staff should be trained so that they know what to do in such circumstances, including reporting the problem and ensuring the equipment is clearly marked as unfit for use.
The second aspect is making sure staff know how to use the safety equipment. It should never be assumed that staff intuitively know how to use every single item of safety equipment provided. It is often the case that assumptions end up becoming the root cause of problems. In some cases this may include training staff in situations where making the wrong choice or using equipment in the wrong way could result in compatibility problems. For example, wearing the wrong combination of eye protection and head protection could result in one or both items failing to provide adequate protection.
The third aspect of personal protective equipment training is ensuring staff understand about exceptions. This largely means making sure staff appreciate that there are no exceptions. Statistically a significant proportion of accidents within the workplace occur because staff didn't think it was worth using safety equipment. The attitude that the job will only take a couple of minutes and that it's therefore not worth going to all the trouble of donning the necessary safety equipment is not acceptable, and this message should be made very clear.
Finally, if any case is identified where staff are not wearing safety equipment, or not wearing the right safety equipment, wearing faulty or inadequate safety equipment or not using personal protective equipment in the right way, this should be immediately investigated and the appropriate action taken. This might mean that further or more specific training is required as well as clearer or more visible and helpful signage.
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