OSHA defines personal protective equipment as equipment worn to minimize exposure to serious workplace injuries and illnesses. These injuries and illnesses may result from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical or other workplace hazards. Personal protective equipment may include items such as gloves, safety glasses and shoes, earplugs, etc.
With that said, as the saying goes, you can lead the horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. So, the question is, you can provide the items needed to protect the employee, but how do you make them use it? OSHA requires more than availability.
There was an interesting article in Safety/NewsAlert titled Is it enough to provide safety gear, or do you have to make 'em use it? Even though this pertained to a workers compensation case, it raises a good question that I believe every operator should ask themselves: What do I do to promote the use of the devices that will keep my employees safe?
The following are some ideas that should be part of your list:
- Are employees held accountable for not using protective equipment? How severe should the punishment be? Termination?
- How easy do you make it to find the equipment you want them to use? Are they in a properly labeled container in close proximity of the hazard?
- Do you train the employees to understand the risks of not using the protection and show them how and when to use it?
- Do you have written policies regarding the company's expectation for using the safety equipment?
- Is the equipment clean and comfortable to use?
- Do you have a maintenance plan to keep the equipment in good, working condition?
- Did you assign a person to monitor a personal protection program? Are you aware of how effective it is?
- Do you use signage to warn employees of the hazards and advise them what equipment to use? Are the signs readable and in the proper language?
- Do you encourage employees to report unsafe conditions that would require protection equipment (front line eyes & ears)?
Carwash tunnels and especially equipment rooms are usually the areas that pose the most serious threats to your employee's well-being. This makes the use of personal protection equipment by your employee one of the most important aspects of any safety program. At a minimum, these questions should become a checklist along with any additional ideas you may have to engage the staff to use these devices.
Keep in mind, as employers there are at least two reasons compliance is critical to your business. First, if an employee is hurt—and depending on the severity of an injury — OSHA may elect to levy fines for what they may consider non-compliance with the intent of the regulation. Secondly, and even more importantly, an injured worker will cost your company a great deal of time and money. Begin today!
Remember, a safe wash protects people and profits!