This post explains the instances where personal protective equipment (commonly referred to as PPE) may be required, which equipment should be used, and compliance tips for safety managers.
In a recent video filmed at the Agnew gold mine in Australia, employees created a rendition of the recent youtube dance craze, the “Harlem Shake”. The intention was for a bit of fun during a graveyard shift, but the outcome resulted in 15 miners fired for their actions.
Many people have differing opinions on the video and some have argued that the employees shouldn’t have been fired because they used some personal protective equipment (PPE) pieces.
It should be noted that when it comes to PPE, it is only effective if all mandated equipment and clothing are used at all times. Although these miners were wearing hard hats and boots, they removed pieces of clothing and reflective wear that are essential not only to a mining site, but also to working in the dark (in this instance, an underground mine).
A statement released by the mine, Barminco, said the stunt breached its “core values of safety, integrity and excellence.”
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a safety requirement for most personnel in construction, mining, and industrial sectors. And for good reason. Chemicals, debris, machinery, and noise are just some of the hazards that many people come in to contact with each day on the job.
The range of what is acceptable PPE on a job site varies greatly. What determines the necessity for PPE on a particular job site can include:
- Site rules
- Environmental factors (location, weather)
- Job hazards
- Risk assessment
- Accepted practices
- Workplace layout
- Individual needs
- Corporate safety culture practices
For most organizations, site rules will require personal protective equipment in the following forms:
- Head protection – hard hats, helmets, bump caps, hats, hoods
- Eye protection – visors, goggles, glasses, face masks, sun glasses
- Ear protection – ear plugs, ear muffs
- Respiratory Protection – SCBA, respirators, dust masks
- Skin protection – non-baggy full length clothing, overalls, coveralls, aprons, sunscreen
- Hand protection – gloves, mitts, finger cots, barrier cream
- Foot protection – non-slip soles, steel-toed boots, metatarsal guards
- Body protection – reflective wear, fire-resistant clothing
Tips for Managers:
It’s obvious that the Agnew gold mine had a problem with adequate PPE compliance, and the blame for this lies beyond the fired employees. Safety requires continuous collaboration, involvement and positive reinforcement. Here are some suggestions to get staff motivated:
- Start each shift with head-to-toe check of equipment. Get co-workers to check over each other’s equipment.
- Give positive feedback to workers mid-shift and congratulate them on their compliance.
- Give specific reinforcement as to why the equipment is necessary. This acts as a reminder for future compliance. (ie. “Wearing your goggles today is the first step in ensuring you have 20/20 vision in the future.”)
- Get employees to contribute by filling out risk assessments. This will grow their understanding of which personal protective equipment is required for each risk.
- When an individual is not wearing the proper equipment, use questions rather than demands to get to compliance. (ie. “I notice that that drill is creating a lot of noise for this environment. What sort of hazard do you think that noise might be doing to your body? Is there any way you could reduce that risk?”)