It should never be assumed that all workers wear their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) 100% of the time, or even the majority of the time. One of the reasons cited for this is that PPE can sometimes be uncomfortable. As well as leading to PPE not being worn when it should, discomfort can also mean it gets moved, readjusted or worn incorrectly. While jeopardizing one’s own health and safety may seem strange, it’s not unknown for it to happen through these types of actions. Few workers would actively want to wear equipment which is too tight, makes breathing difficult, or irritates the skin, for an entire shift.
Other reasons for not wearing PPE can include; difficulty in carrying out tasks, difficulties in communicating, errors or misunderstanding in PPE fitting, lack of understanding to why PPE should be worn, bravado and even defiance.
In many instances, workers may not even know they are wearing their PPE incorrectly. Using headphones underneath their ear muffs, for example, can lead to workers exposing themselves to potentially harmful levels of noise – something unknown without sufficient education and training. When conducting PPE training and refresher sessions, it’s worth noting that people learn in different ways, and it can be necessary to use a variety of training techniques to ensure that important messages are understood. You may for example like to blend hands on practical training with traditional presentations. Remember also the need for repetition and the value that refresher sessions have when reminding workers about the risks facing them at work.
So given the importance of product comfort, improving safety knowledge and the importance of training, how can workers be encouraged to put their PPE on and keep it on?
One approach that generally works well is to involve workers in the PPE selection process. Allowing them to trial a variety of appropriate PPE gives them the opportunity to try out models that they find comfortable. By focussing on initial PPE selection in collaboration with workers and the implementation of regular training and refresher courses on the dangers faced at work and using PPE correctly, H&S managers could help to improve employee buy in on compliance in the long run.
To aid you with your selection process 3M offer free product trials so that workers can get to grips with new PPE and find the products that are not only suitable but also comfortable to wear. We also provide relevant questionnaires to get the most accurate feedback from workers, allowing your decision on PPE to be as informed as possible.
The 3M Workers’ Choice initiative highlights key products in our hearing protection, respiratory protection and eye protection ranges. To see these products please visit: