When your workers go to the vending machines in their work area, they probably expect to be able to get a soda and a bag of chips. If your company is trying to encourage healthier food choices, workers may find bottled water and nuts instead. If you’re really looking to expand your workers’ options and improve their health, maybe their fruit juice and granola bars are sharing dispenser coil space with disposable foam earplugs and safety glasses.
That’s right—increasing numbers of employers are using vending machine technology as a way to put safety gear right where workers need it. It’s a system with a lot of advantages.
The Safety Automat
Making basic safety gear available through a vending machine system can help to improve compliance and control costs. Here’s how.
Gear is available 24/7. Staffing patterns can make it difficult for workers on second and third shifts to obtain needed safety gear. Rather than add “track and distribute safety gear” to a second- or third-shift supervisor’s duties, you can simply place a personal protective equipment (PPE) vending machine in the work area. Hearing protection devices, safety glasses, gloves, hard hats, even items like caution tape or shoe covers can be made readily available on all shifts, throughout the workplace.
Inventory control is automated. The vending machine system not only secures your safety equipment inventory but also can be keyed to workers’ badges. You will know who each item was dispensed to and when—and you can even link the information to specific job numbers, if you choose. You can program the system to dispense gear to specific people at specific intervals—virtually eliminating hoarding and shrinkage. Also, if some workers aren’t even bothering to get their safety gear, you’ll know about it.
Reusable items are trackable, too. You don’t have to stock your vending machines exclusively with disposable items; they can also be used to check out and track reusable equipment. Often, these vending machines are configured as lockers with clear glass or polycarbonate doors that can hold larger items, like chemical protective suits. Again, the locker tracks who checked the equipment out—reducing the likelihood of theft—and how many times it has been used, enabling timely maintenance or replacement.
Vending Health and Wellness
You can also incorporate the vending machine/locker concept into your wellness program. Many employers are already offering healthier snack and beverage options through their vending machines, but the possibilities go far beyond food. Employers are using vending machines or lockers to encourage employee wellness by configuring them to sell bicycle parts, safety gear for personal use at home—including large items like fire extinguishers—and fitness equipment. The ready availability of these items, coupled with initiatives to encourage workers to bike to work or exercise during the workday, can enhance the success of such programs.