Personal Protective Equipment

PPE: The Real World Perspective

Yesterday, we talked about OSHA’s PPE requirements. Today, we focus on management of PPE programs in the real world, where compliance isn’t something you can take for granted.

OSHA standards are one thing, but what’s really happening in your workplace? That’s where the rubber meets the road when it comes to PPE compliance.

The idealized image of properly used, cleaned, and stowed PPE is a fantasy on many work sites, says safety consultant Anna Jolly. “You’ll see dust masks thrown everywhere and dirty, grimy gloves used for various exposures that aren’t necessarily the right ones.”

Jan Thomas and Jolly are president and vice president of Circle Safety and Health Consultants in Richmond, Virginia. They’ve been advising clients, auditing, speaking, teaching, and providing expert testimony for 14 years.

The main problem with PPE compliance in the real world, according to the Circle Safety consultants, is a lack of training and supervision.

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Ensuring PPE Use

According to Jolly, the key to ensuring proper PPE use by employees and full compliance with OSHA standards is management interest and commitment. "Nothing gets fixed unless management cares."

Change comes when the workplace, with management in the lead, adopts a culture of safety. Jolly says culture is a combination of "indoctrinating employees from the get-go that they are supposed to wear the right protection, as well as training them and enforcing the rules. All these things roll together into culture."

Another important aspect of an effective PPE program is making sure protective equipment is properly used. Jolly and Thomas advise employers to hold onto any materials that come with new PPE. Manufacturers’ instructions and the like should be stored and treated the same way material safety data sheets are—for example, by placing them in a binder for use in training and for reference by employees and supervisors.

In fact, in Virginia, legislation now requires employers under the state OSHA program’s jurisdiction to follow manufacturers’ safety procedures for their equipment. Thomas and Jolly advocate a similar federal OSHA rule and believe it would significantly improve PPE compliance nationwide.

Comfort Counts, Too!

Another very important aspect of real world PPE use by employees is comfort. If it isn’t as comfortable as possible, workers are going to look for excuses not to wear it.

 “Comfort drives compliance,” says Kimberly-Clark Professional Division research scientist Kim MacDougall. At the end of the day, she stresses, the very best protective equipment is useless unless a worker wears it consistently.

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Training for Consistent Compliance

If you’ve been looking for quality PPE training or training for a wide range of other safety concerns, look no farther. As its name implies, the OSHA Training System is a complete system to meet your full training needs. All the materials are prepared in advance, so no prep time is required. All you do is reproduce what you need and put it to use. Materials include:

  • 32 complete safety units, meeting every key OSHA standard. Each includes full background for trainers, a ready-to-use safety meeting, and follow-up handouts. View a Table of Contents.
  • Quizzes, handouts, and copies of 27 different employee booklets, coordinated to the safety meetings. (Booklets can be bought in any quantity at a discount.)
  • A complete training recordkeeping and tracking system that tells you which employees need what training, and then tracks your program to ensure they get it.
  • Quarterly updates, included with the program. You receive at least 4 new safety units every 90 days, covering new OSHA standards and training needs.

If you share the common problem of never having enough time or the right materials for training, we’d suggest you examine the OSHA Training System program. We’ve arranged for you to do so for up to 30 days at no cost or risk. Just let us know and we’ll be happy to make all the arrangements.

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