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How to ensure employees comply with safety protocols

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Employers are obligated to keep workplaces free of known safety and health hazards. Educating employees about safety risks and how to prevent accidents can help employers fulfill those obligations. However, employees also have to do their part by complying with safety guidelines, including using and wearing the appropriate safety gear.
Personal protective equipment, or PPE, has entered the general lexicon in the wake of the global pandemic, especially as it applied to health care workers serving on the front lines of COVID-19 surges. At the start of the pandemic, PPE was a hot news topic, particularly in regard to shortages at medical centers. However, PPE includes more than the masks, gloves and gowns worn by health care workers. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, PPE refers to any equipment worn to minimize exposure to a variety of hazards. That gear changes depending on the job and work environment.
To ensure the greatest possible protection for workers, OSHA recommends that employees and employers work together to maintain safe and healthy work environments. PPE usage is part of that effort. Employers and employees can take various measures to ensure the safety of all workers and reduce the risk of accidents.
• Employers can routinely assess workplaces to identify any hazards. This can help to determine if PPE and safety protocols are still meeting the needs of the workforce.
• Supervisors and company owners can lead by example by donning PPE in certain situations. This includes wearing hard hats on construction sites and proper footwear or gloves when making tours or demonstrations.
• Continue to educate employees about the importance of PPE, advises the Society for Human Resource Management. SHRM offers expert advice and thoughtful information on issues that affect today’s evolving workplaces. Training also may be required to meet many OSHA standards. Employees will need to know how to wear PPE properly, including when to wear it, how to store it and how to care for it.
• Enforce disciplinary policies regarding protocol breaches. Effective disciplinary programs are accumulative, advises Occupational Health & Safety magazine. That means a first offense leads to a minor infraction, and repeated offenses become more serious as more violations occur. A fine line must be walked for discipline to be effective, as the goal is to ensure employees are not alienated or made to feel hesitant to report hazards for fear of retaliation.
• Too much PPE does not make it inherently safer. The key is finding a balance for the right amount of PPE. Overprotection can lead to heat stress caused by wearing too many layers.
Safety protocols must be implemented at the workplace. Employers and employees can work together to reduce risk for accidents and injuries.

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