Insight

Promoting Team Safety: Getting Your Gang to Wear Their Gear

How does your team rank on workplace safety? Whether it’s personal protective equipment (PPE) like wearables that don’t seem to fit right, or skipping an inspection before operating a piece of machinery, getting a few ‘needs improvement’ marks on the compliance report card puts people at risk. Boosting team safety participation is all about time and reasoning.  Here are a few tips that will get everyone on board the adoption train.

New things can take a little getting used to 

Here’s one: when you upgraded your phone last, remember how it felt like a boat anchor in your hand or pocket? But when you were binge watching The Crown on Netflix a few days later in the waiting room at the tire shop (it’s okay, nobody else knows), you didn’t even notice the size or weight difference anymore. New equipment and ways of working can trip us up at first. Change takes a little time, especially when it comes to team safety. 

Why do we have to wear this stuff anyway? 

This is the reasoning part: your line of work has some inherent risks. Yes, you’re smart and good at what you do. But accidents aren’t about being smart and experienced. Accidents happen because your job exposes you to health and safety hazards that can include risks anywhere from falling, to the potential for flying objects or loud noise, and so on. If that’s not enough to make you want to don the safety gear, ultimately, your employer is required to have you wear it. That’s OSHA talking. It’s an expectation of compliance. Federal guidelines outline an employer’s responsibility for identifying dangers at each workstation and job position. A safety plan for each is to be documented and accessible for reference. Protective equipment must be made available, and employees must be shown how to use it correctly. 

Make team safety training realistic

Yes, a training program requires a specific curriculum that has to be followed at regular intervals, like annually. Do that, for sure. But pull the gang together and talk it out more often than that, and keep some of these sessions informal. If you’re the manager, start the conversation and encourage dialogue:

  • What’s the issue we’re up against? 
  • How is this new equipment or way of working going to affect our workday?  
  • What are the pro’s and con’s? 

You’re going for more familiarity, here. When it’s safety gear like a wearable or a communication headset, have it available and laid out for everyone to check it out. Try them on and talk about the look and feel. Go over adjustments and make sure everyone knows how to get the right fit so it’s most comfortable on the head. Have more information, like informative videos or manuals available as a reference, if needed.

And one more time – why are we doing this again? 

Remind folks that millions of people wear protective equipment like gloves, hats, headsets, bunny suits and respirators during their everyday jobs. We use the gear and follow safety practices because we want to get home in one piece. You have kids at home, or a classic car in the garage? What do you like to do on your days off? Families and hobbies are more fun when we’re in good health and free of injury. 

Building a safety culture around participation and ownership feels a lot better than audits and getting written up. As a workplace, you know you’re there when you hear a story from someone who forgot to put on their safety gear and felt strange when starting the job without them. 

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