Motivating Employees: Wearing PPE

Many factors can influence an employee’s decision whether or not to wear protective clothing/equipment in the workplace. To develop and strengthen your safety and PPE program, you must first understand these factors that influence employees’ decisions to wear protective gloves.

For employees, it is often simply a question of convenience and comfort. For employers, the issues may come down to cost and how to provide appropriate PPE (that is both convenient and comfortable for the wearers) in a cost-effective way.

To make things easy for you, we’ve listed some considerations below that may help you to understand how best to to ensuring employee compliance with PPE regulations.

Internal Factors

Individual Risk Perception

An individual employees risk perception can be influenced by the company or by the worker’s own experience. In a workplace culture where safety is encouraged, training is provided, and the majority of workers wear the right PPE, new employees are more likely to adopt the same practices. In contrast, in a workplace that does not value safety training or enforce any sort of PPE use, new employees are less likely to make the right decision on wearing PPE.

However, employees may still choose to wear PPE even in a company that does not encourage it, if their own experiences or particular job poses high risks (such as working with heat or sharp objects). Workers can opt to wear gloves based on the exposure of the work and their own experiences, even in a workplace culture that does not promote safety. For example, if a task requires a person to handle sharp objects or reach into an area with severe heat, he or she is more likely to wear protective gloves than if the operation does not pose any evident risks. The duration of these particular risky tasks can also effects the decision to wear gloves. For example, someone who spends hours opening packages with a box cutter is more likely to feel the need for protective gloves than someone who just needs to open one package.

External Factors

Employees can be motivated to wear PPE in the form of a reward or punishment. If the wearing of PPE is recognised or rewarded, or reprimanded (e.g. termination of employment for not complying with health and safety regulations) employees would be more inclined to wear their gloves, or safety glasses etc.

Physical Obstacles

Gloves (among other PPE) are not one-size-fits-all! Even if a packet of disposable gloves says OSFA, bear in mind this does not allow for extra large or extra small hands.

A big issue with employees not choosing to wear their PPE is because it may be uncomfortable or impact their ability to do their job. Ensuring employees have the correct size gloves is essential for proper protection. An oversized glove may get caught in machinery, or make it difficult for the wearer to do more delicate tasks. Providing the right type of glove is also important as some people might manage with bulky, thermal gloves while others need warmth AND dexterity. The wrong gloves or PPE can impact work productivity and creates further risk of injuries, costing more money in the long run.

Process Obstacles

Studies show that if the process of obtaining PPE is too difficult or inconvenient, employees are less likely to wear their PPE. For example, if employees are required to purchase their own work gloves, some might find it expensive. In this case, the company has created a barrier to compliance by failing to provide the required protection.

If employees are required to put more effort in to obtaining PPE (i.e. if they have to see their supervisor any time they need a new pair of gloves), they are less likely to wear them, or will continue wearing gloves that may be old and worn and no longer provide the right protection. If PPE is offered or provided in an easy and convenient way (i.e. a box of disposable gloves by the door), employees are more likely to grab a pair before they start work and replace old, worn pairs sooner.

Top Tips to Takeaway:

  1. Create a culture that values safety – senior leadership team can set the example!
  2. Reward and reinforce appropriate PPE use
  3. Provide the correct PPE and make sure it is comfortable and practical
  4. Ensure there is clear, visible signage around the work place reminding employees to wear their PPE (and ensuring they know how and where to obtain it!)
  5. Communicate! Regular training and reminders of why it’s important to wear PPE and how to wear it correctly.

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