Information is trickling out about Paul Quinlivan’s decision to repeatedly not wear PPE. A common reason for workers to not wear personal protective equipment is that it does not suit the individual. Quinlivan says he kept removing his goggles because they kept fogging up.
Goggles must retain their visibility for them to function. Fogging up may indicate that the goggles are the wrong type for the work being undertaken or for that work environment. Frequently business want one type of PPE to be applicable to a range of circumstances and this may not be a reasonable expectation.Workers often choose not to wear PPE because it is not comfortable. It may be too tight or create discomfort by, in the case of footwear, not being supportive of feet and legs when the worker must stand all day. The safety glasses may pinch behind the ears on one worker even though everyone else finds them comfortable. Businesses must accept that there is sufficient variation in personal shapes and needs that a limited selection of PPE may encourage people to avoid wearing it.
The limited selection is often seen as an acceptable trade-off to cost by the procurement officer. This is sometimes encouraged by equipment suppliers who can provide economies of scale for uniform PPE rather than providing an acceptable price for individual items that may better suit the workforce.
Some workplaces consider it easier to provide a subsidy for workers to purchase their own PPE. There are major advantages in this option but it must be supported by detailed criteria so that any selection meets the requirements of the job. Any subsidy must also be aware of the changing prices of PPE and be adjusted accordingly.
Of course this option removes any possibility of discounts from bulk purchases and it may be difficult to argue on cost with the procurement officer or chief financial officer. Such a discussion may illustrate just how serious a company’s commitment to safety really is.
It is highly likely that there is more behind the original dismissal of Quinlivan than is publicly available but of all the issues it raises, at least one is shared by countless companies and small business – all the safety equipment in the world could be supplied but it does not work if it is not worn properly.