How Choosing PPE Can Keep You Safe (And Why Some Don't Wear It!)
Of the 300,000 eye injuries reported in 2016 an estimated 90% could have been prevented with proper PPE. 70% of hand and arm injuries could have been prevented with something as simple as safety gloves. According to findings from Safety + Health Magazine, most of these fatal falls could have been prevented if workers had been wearing proper fall protection.
2/5 of workplace hand injuries are from punctures or cuts.
45% of all head injuries that result in missed workdays are eye injuries.
Falls accounted for 38% of fatalities in construction in 2016.
When it comes to PPE, both employers and employees have a role to play. But true safety comes when both embrace their responsibilities and choose PPE.
Employers and Their Role With PPE
Both Canada and the US have regulations that require employers to help keep their employees safe. There are three ways that employers are expected to help protect their employees: to plan, provide and train.
All employers should think ahead about safety hazards on site. By doing so, it allows ample time to order the proper type of PPE needed to keep employees safe. These costs should be taken into consideration and be budged as a necessary expense.
Just as an employer is responsible to plan for safety, they are also responsible to provide the appropriate personal protection equipment. From safety glasses and work gloves to rebates for steel toe boots, it is the responsibility of employers to provide safety equipment to their employees.
Giving out PPE is a great first step but all employees should be trained to use PPE properly. This step is especially important for safety harnesses and other fall protection which need to be worn properly to work. Another side to training with PPE is to know when to replace it; recognizing what wear and tear look like for different pieces of PPE is also an important safety step.
If you want more information on the role of employers in safety or how to create a safety program for your company, the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety and the United States Department of Labor both have resources which can help you. They also provide additional educational resources on what PPE is, the role it should have in a company, governmental standards, and much more.
Employees and Their Role With PPE
Although employers are required to plan for safety, provide PPE, and train their employees on its proper use, the actual responsibility to wear PPE falls to the individual workers. Since employers cannot force employees to wear their protective equipment, a lot of workers don’t. There are many reasons for this. Safety equipment is often seen as uncomfortable, a roadblock to efficient work, or unnecessary and not enforced by management.
But it shouldn’t matter if it is enforced by a manager if you think it looks silly, or even if it slows you down slightly. The facts show that when workers in the construction industry do not prioritize their own safety, it is them at the end of the day who end up injured. This is why it must fall to every individual person to choose PPE every day.
Refusing Unsafe Work
It is the legal right of all employees to work safely. In fact refusing unsafe work and demanding proper PPE has become a Call-To-Action of sorts as families – such as this one from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada – call upon others to know their rights after losing a loved one themselves.
Unfortunately, the possible implications of refusing unsafe work can deter people from doing so. Loss of wages or fear of retaliation from co-workers or management can be enough to deter someone from speaking up. OSHA has information about your rights to refuse unsafe work as well as a hotline (1-800-321-OSHA (6742)) to call if you experience any kind of pushback for doing so.
The Role Of Everyone to Embrace PPE
Companies can consider holding a recognition program to recognize employees who comply with safety regulations. This can help to encourage a safety culture both on and off site. Planning group activities that promote safety such as an after-work trip to get everyone new safety boots can help achieve this, too.
By embracing the role that PPE can play in your life, you can help make yourself and those around you much safer. Lead by example and be confident that you will go home every night injury-free.