As building managers and floor supervisors know, fall protection equipment can help prevent many injuries and fatalities in the workplace. But how do you handle employees who are reluctant to use that safety equipment?
Unfortunately, policies that discipline employees for failing to use safety equipment may not be wholly effective in changing attitudes about workplace safety. A more comprehensive approach involves regular training, allowing employees to have input on equipment choices and shifting some oversight out of administrative offices and onto the production floor.
Four factors are changing the workplace mentality about safety gear:
Training. First, educate all employees on the risks of falls in the workplace. According to the CDC and Bureau of Labor Statistics, falls accounted for 213,000 workplace injuries and 605 deaths in one year alone. Also, all new hires should go through safety training that includes step-by-step instructions on how to use safety gear. Have workers put on a safety harness as part of their training, so you know they can do it correctly.
You may not think anyone would need training on how to climb a ladder, but if you’ve ever seen someone climbing a ladder with tools in-hand, you know people sometimes forget basic safety protocol. Explain in training that even when a ladder is surrounded by a fall protection cage, workers still need to exercise caution when climbing, and that includes keeping their hands free.
Employee input. If you’ve heard workers say their fall protection harnesses are ill-fitting or uncomfortable, ask them for help in choosing new equipment. You could even assemble a team to research and test new harnesses. When workers have some say in the type of equipment they’re required to use, they may be more likely to use it.
Peer monitoring. A building manager can’t watch what’s happening in production areas at all times. That’s why a safety committee comprised of employees may be more effective in promoting the use of safety gear. Plus, workers may be more likely to follow instructions from their peers, rather than from management.
Give your safety committee the autonomy to reward people who uphold good safety standards – perhaps provide an incentive like free lunch or a cash reward that your committee can offer someone each month.
Good policies. Policies should clearly state your company’s commitment to safety and expectations of employees. Ensure employees read the policies HOWand have them sign an agreement that states they understand and will follow those policies. Repeat that process each year, so employees don’t forget the importance of safety.