How do you get your factory workers to wear protective equipment?

You’re constantly reminding your employees to wear the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for their jobs, but sometimes you feel like you’re talking to a brick wall. Some may be noncompliant because of job fatigue, a lack of knowledge, or discomfort with the provided PPE. Others may rationalize or feel too complacent to add another step to the routine. Think you’re alone? You’re not -- in fact, a survey conducted by Kimberly-Clark Professional at the 2006 National Safety Council Congress found that 85% of the attendees had witnessed PPE noncompliance at their organizations.

But don’t give up! Luckily, there are steps you can take to improve employee PPE compliance and make your organization safer for all of your employees.

Choose the right PPE. If you choose the wrong products, your employees will rightfully grumble about using them. Get your employees’ input on the style, comfort levels, and ease of care of the different PPE options. Don’t forget to think about replacement frequency, ergonomics, and other factors. Ask your team for feedback after using the PPE for a period of time to make sure you’re all on the same page.

  • Example: Ill-fitting gloves will create hand fatigue. This is a simple ergonomic issue, and you can find out by asking your employees if their hands feel weak. If so, they likely need to switch to gloves of a different size of material.

    Establish policies and procedures about PPE. Gather your employees and ask for their input in creating rules that work for them. You’ll want to preface the conversation by explaining the rationale behind PPE use so that they don’t view it as a senseless chore.

  • Example: When you have employees with different hand sizes, which is usually the case, finding the correct gloves each morning can be annoying. An easy solution is to color-coordinate sizes so grabbing the right glove can be done quickly and without thinking.

    Make compliance easy. You don’t want it to be too difficult for employees to comply with the policies, so brainstorm ways to make it as simple as possible. That might mean creating multi-lingual applications and making sure that PPE is readily available and located near your employees’ workspaces.

  • Example: Place PPE in quick-grab dispensers, and make sure you reorder early. If your PPE is hard to find or always running out, you’re making it difficult for your employees to stay safe.

    Provide sufficient training. Make sure that your employees are clear on your company’s policies on PPE use, through the initial training as well as periodic reminders. You also may want to consider using outside trainers occasionally, both to show your company’s commitment and to show that outside sources agree with the importance of your safety protocol.

  • Example: A simple one-hour refresher course on the risks your employees face and how to protect against them can be very effective. Keeping workplace dangers top-of-mind makes employees more vigilant. Some vendors, including Gloves by Web, offer this service to their customers.

    Show that the leadership is committed. If managers are asking employees to follow a policy that they don’t follow themselves, they’ll be setting themselves up for failure. Lead by example and discuss PPE use before each new project to underscore its importance.

  • Example: Whenever you go on the factory floor or out in the field -- even briefly -- make a point of properly donning PPE. Your employees are watching your actions to see if your company policies are “just to stay compliant” or if they are genuinely important.

    Reinforce compliance. In order to ensure that your employees follow the company policies on PPE use, consider rewarding them for doing so, as well as creating adverse consequences for those who do not. This might mean requiring employees to sign a written policy or organizing a daily PPE check.

    • Example: Brightly colored PPE is easier to spot, so supervisors can easily see who is (and who isn’t) wearing it . In a large factory, white PPE is sometimes hard to see; use colors that stand out against your workplace background.


    Safety in your organization should be non-negotiable. The steps that you take to ensure that your employees comply with PPE policies can make the difference between an unsafe environment and one that does its best to protect every employee.

    Written by Rob Brown