Site safety is one of, if not the, most important aspects of working within the commercial and industrial sector. PPE is intrinsic to safe working practice on site – yet it can often be misused, misunderstood or missed-off completely. Ross Oates, Project Manager for housebuilder St Joseph (Berkeley Group) explains more.
From caps and coats through to goggles and gloves, PPE is an ever-present in some form or other on every working site in the UK. While you won’t find
many people blatantly disregarding a site’s PPE requirements, in many instances there remains a disconnect between the specific requirements of the application in question, and the PPE provided to do the job.
For example, face-fit testing is a legal requirement for any work which mandates the use of masks, and the majority of sites are very on the ball when it comes to adequately sizing masks for their employees and contractors. However, the likes of gloves and coats are not held with the same reverence when it comes to sizing, despite all being safety-critical equipment.
For the likes of gloves, the approach has often revolved around finding the cheapest equipment which meets the minimum standards outlined by the appropriate risk assessment. Once identified, gloves are purchased – often in just one or two sizes – and distributed to the workforce. However, the likelihood that one or two sizes will be the perfect fit for everyone working on site is going to be slim. You’ll find that for many, those sizes are likely to be too big or too small, which could impact their dexterity and, ultimately, their productivity. This is when people often take matters into their own hands and either disregard them entirely, or alter them (such as cutting off finger tips). This is also when accidents start to happen.
"Perhaps the biggest area for improvement when it comes to promoting a safe culture on site is increasing awareness around the need to use quality, application-specific PPE."
In terms of how to realise this, I have found that inviting your PPE supplier on to site for some informal demonstrations is a really effective way of engaging employees and contractors. They can have the ‘quid pro quo’ with the team working on site and talk through the importance of task-specific PPE, emphasising that it is the best way to make life easier on site, rather than disregarding or modifying PPE themselves. This can allow employees and contractors to feedback on the challenges they face, and not only explore new options for PPE which can help remove any stumbling blocks, but also educate site managers and SHE personnel on what is really needed ahead of any future PPE replenishment.
Ultimately, engaging the workforce on a human level is the most effective way of improving site safety. Providing an honest explanation of why PPE needs to be worn is essential, but so too is making a concerted effort to provide task -specific PPE, in the appropriate size. Doing so will help keep accidents to a minimum, improve productivity, and promote a healthy and open culture between employers and staff.