Don’t Throw In The Towel! How to Encourage PPE Compliance in the Workplace

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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.

    The Importance of Allergen Cleaning

    Allergen Cleaning - Gloves by Web

    How things have changed. Twenty-five years ago, food allergens weren’t an issue. Today, every food processor needs to be conscious of allergens.

    Allergens are highlighted throughout the FDA’s recently-issued Preventive Controls Regulations. Good Manufacturing Practices have been modified to include both cross-contamination and cross-contact. While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there’s a difference. A good explanation can be found at MenuTrinfo:

    Cross Contamination

    Cross-contamination [typically] … happens when foods are raw. Whether this is at the processing plant, when it’s in the field, or on the cutting board, cross-contamination happens when bacteria from one food product transfers to another.

    More importantly, contamination implies that that one can easily avoid the problem altogether by heating it to a certain temperature. After all, that’s how you kill bacteria.

    When people with allergies … express a concern about cross-contamination, the cooks or chefs’ first thought is that it will be fine if they just cook it off. The problem … of course, is that you can’t cook away an allergy, no matter how high the heat.

    Cross-Contact

    While cross-contamination refers to the transference of bacteria, cross-contact is the transference of proteins. Sadly, you can’t cook off a protein.

    Proteins can transfer in many ways. This can be with a fork that stirs a pot of boiling noodles, or using an uncleaned grill. As allergies don’t burn off, even a food from a long time ago can cause cross-contact and a severe allergic reaction!

     For the purposes of a food processor, allergen cross-contact means any unintentional incorporation of a food allergen into your products. The regulation mandates that food processors manage allergens. In practice, here’s what you do and don’t have to ensure:

     

    1. You DO have to make preventative protocols that minimize the potential for cross-contact.
    2. You DO have to establish sanitation controls, ensuring that food contact surfaces on which allergens are processed and handled are sanitary.  
    3. You DO have to verify cleanliness; demonstrating that the food contact surfaces and equipment in question have been cleaned as documented.
    4. You DON’T have to validate your allergen cleaning and sanitizing program, but in reality, many processors conduct this exercise.

     

    One of the reasons why allergens are emphasized in the regulation is apparent from Figure 1 developed by FARRP in 2016. Clearly, there has been an upward trend in allergen recalls for the past two decades. You can also see the same trend by looking at the FDA website.


    So far, so good. You understand the regulation. You want to protect your company, your products and your customers. But how should you go about doing this?

     

    Let’s look at how you might develop, document, implement, and maintain an Allergen Cleaning Program. A critical component of building this program will be making sure that all of the people doing the cleaning and management will be trained, and that the training is documented.

     

    Many processors utilize visually clean as their “cleanliness yardstick.Does it look clean? This sounds good. However, depending upon how the equipment is designed, visually clean is not always “properly cleaned.” Rather, the proper cleaning for equipment will depend upon the type of product being manufactured.

     

    • Equipment in plants manufacturing dry products like bakery products and tree nuts are dry-cleaned, which means no water is used.
    • Equipment in plants manufacturing most other foods, including ready-to-eat meats, entrees, and seafoods, are wet-cleaned using standard cleaning practices. This includes; rinse to remove gross soil; clean with detergent; rinse; sanitize; and rinse to remove the sanitizer.  

     

    Cleaning protocols must be developed by the food processor, usually with input from their chemical supplier. The chemical supplier needs to look at the operation and recommend the chemicals that will do the best job. Suppliers are also often called in to train the plant workers on handling and use of the chemicals and equipment needed for cleaning. Part of this training process must include the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) which includes gloves. The company’s staff needs to learn how to use the PPE, as well as how to maintain their protective equipment.

     

    But, let’s get back to developing the cleaning protocols. When developing the allergen cleaning program, you need to make sure that your protocol is effective. In the words of the regulation, the processor must “determine whether or not the plan is sufficient to ensure clean equipment and environment using visibly clean criteria and quantifiable methods.”  

     

    So how do you determine that clean is clean enough? And what are “quantifiable methods?”

     

    The best method is using allergen ELISA (Enzyme Linked Immuno-Absorbent Assay) tests. Validation tests should be done with the product that has the highest protein load. It’s also important to conduct a positive control.

     

    There are different ways to validate a system: swabbing, product push through, finished product testing and evaluation of CIP rinse water. If you use ELISA tests, you should evaluate different tests and select the best one. If the target allergen is recovered during validation testing, the cleaning protocol should be enhanced. A minimum of two cleaning trials must be conducted to properly validate the protocol. In industry, many operations run more during validation trials. Once a cleaning regimen is established, it must be repeated each day. This process should be documented.

     

    You will need a second party to verify that cleaning is done properly. This party will certify that procedures were followed and that equipment appeared clean. As part of cleaning verification, companies use swabs. These can be ATP, allergen swabs, protein swabs or even microbiological tests.

     

    In the end, controlling allergens is a careful and costly process. But as a processor, it’s simply part of protecting consumers and your business.

     

    REFERENCES

     

    United States Food & Drug Administration, (2015), Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 117, “Current Good Manufacturing Practice Hazard Analysis and Risk Based Preventive Controls for Human Food,” U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.

    FARRP, (2016), FDA Allergen Recalls,” Food Allergen Research and Resource Program, Lincoln, NE

    Gloves In Food Plant Sanitation

    Is Your Food Plant Safe?

    The Roles of Safety Gloves

    The glove plays different roles in food plant sanitation, which includes personal hygiene. It can protect hands from injury and protect food from hands. They are used in production, cleaning and sanitizing, warehouse operations and other applications depending upon the type of food being processed.

    Are Gloves Really Necessary?

    The rule of thumb in the United States for most processors is “If you are touching or handling product, you wear a glove.” There are those, however, who don’t believe in this rule, and maintain that handling foods with bare hands is perfectly okay.  Research studies support the fact that handling foods with bare hands is satisfactory, provided plant workers routinely wash their hands.

    In reality, though, routine handwashing is hard to achieve. Plant workers often will not wash their hands as often as they should.

    That can have disastrous consequences. Failure to wash hands in food processing, foodservice, and restaurant operations can result in foodborne illnesses. Many pathogens can be passed on through the fecal to oral route.

    In practice, it is easier and more efficient for a worker to simply remove a used or damaged glove than to walk over to the sink to wash their hands. For these reasons, most food processors mandate that all workers wear disposable gloves.

    Types of Gloves

    The preferred type of disposable glove has evolved over the years. At one time, almost all disposables were latex. Once the industry realized that latex gloves could cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals, glove manufacturers looked for other options.

    Gloves for Food Processing

    The most common disposable glove used today is produced from nitrile. Meat and seafood processors, and other operations that maintain their process operations at cold temperatures, often utilize two kinds of gloves simultaneously. Workers wear a cotton or wool glove to keep the hands warm, and a disposable glove over that one to protect both the worker and the food from contamination. Finally, these operations sometimes employ a third type of glove for safety. Meat cutters, for example, will wear Kevlar or mail gloves to protect their hands from cuts and punctures.

    Gloves for Cleanup

    The cleanup crew, or those production workers assigned to cleanup at days’ end, handle harsh and dangerous chemicals such as detergents, caustic cleaners and sanitizers. If the cleanup operations use hot water and/or steam as well as harsh chemicals, the gloves must protect from both potential hazards.

    When developing, documenting, and implementing procedures for cleaning and sanitizing, those protocols always emphasize the personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves, that must be worn. In these situations, the glove is not a single-use disposable glove, but a sturdy piece of protective apparel that will protect the workers’ hands from the harsh chemicals and/or heat.

    Gloves used for cleanup may be extra long, so they extend up the forearm and will be covered with the uniform shirt or rain coat. This is done to prevent chemicals or hot water from entering above the glove.

    While these gloves are meant to be used over and over, there is a potential hazard if the gloves degrade or develop cracks or crazing. If that occurs, the gloves may no longer truly protect the worker. That is why gloves must be maintained in good condition, and management and/or the cleanup crew should inspect the gloves before they are worn.

    The Bottom Line

    Gloves may seem simple, but it’s worth putting some thought into buying the right ones. When selecting gloves in food processing operations, it is imperative that those responsible for purchasing fully understand how the gloves will be used.

    It is also essential to work with the plant personnel to ensure that the gloves that are selected will be acceptable to the work force.  There is no sense in buying gloves that workers feel are uncomfortable, restrictive, or unattractive. Even the best gloves won’t protect if your workers won’t wear them.

    Protect your consumers, your workers, and yourself - pick the right gloves and make sure they are used correctly.


    How to Choose the Right Glove for EMTs and Police

    Gloves by Web - How to choose gloves for EMT and Police

    Police, EMTs, and other rescue professionals require special attention when it comes to choosing the ideal protective glove. Police officers have similar gloving needs to EMTs and other emergency personnel because they often come into contact with victims (and perpetrators) and are almost always trained as emergency responders. In addition, police may come into contact with chemicals, overdoses, sharp weapons, or broken glass.

    When choosing the perfect glove for an EMS squad or police department, it is important to consider both the proper material and the right color for the situation.

    Choosing the Material

    Both police officers and EMTs usually opt for medical grade nitrile gloves. People in these occupations need to be prepared to encounter anything when they reach the scene -- from glass shards at a car accident to a patient needing a Narcan injection to reverse the effects of opioids. Nitrile gloves have sufficient cut- and puncture-resistance to protect in either of these situations. Latex gloves were historically the preferred cut-resistant choice, but now they are often avoided due to widespread latex allergies.

    In a situation such as a car accident, first responders may opt for an even thicker glove to protect them against possible glass shards or sharp edges of torn metal. Glove thicknesses vary, with a typical nitrile glove averaging about 4 mil; in these types of situations, however, many would opt for a thicker glove, up to 8 mil. Once the patient is stabilized and on the way to the hospital, an EMT or other responder would be able to change into a somewhat thinner glove, making it easier to check for a pulse or perform any procedure that requires increased dexterity.

    Choosing the Color

    Color should also be a fact taken into consideration when purchasing gloves for EMTs or police officers. Many police departments prefer black gloves. Besides for their professional look, black gloves blend in with dark uniforms and provide decreased visibility, which is important in the case of a shootout or other situation where police are targeted. It can also be helpful in identifying cocaine, since the white powdery substance contrasts well on a black background.

    EMTs, on the other hand, often prefer more brightly colored gloves. Some EMS squads use bright orange gloves for increased visibility in a high traffic area. The glove’s lighter color also allows EMTs to write a patient’s vitals or other important information on the glove.

    Many fire departments and EMS squads, however, prefer color coding the gloves according to size. When they’re in a hurry, they can easily grab correctly sized gloves without sorting through the boxes and reading each label. When every moment matters, colored coded gloves can make a great difference.

    In short, there’s no one correct answer when it comes to choosing protective gloves for emergency personnel. Make sure to take into account the situations that the wearer would potentially encounter, and consider all factors before making a decision.

    How to Choose the Right Glove for EMTs and Police

    Gloves by Web - How to choose gloves for EMT and Police

    Police, EMTs, and other rescue professionals require special attention when it comes to choosing the ideal protective glove. Police officers have similar gloving needs to EMTs and other emergency personnel because they often come into contact with victims (and perpetrators) and are almost always trained as emergency responders. In addition, police may come into contact with chemicals, overdoses, sharp weapons, or broken glass.

    When choosing the perfect glove for an EMS squad or police department, it is important to consider both the proper material and the right color for the situation.

    Choosing the Material

    Both police officers and EMTs usually opt for medical grade nitrile gloves. People in these occupations need to be prepared to encounter anything when they reach the scene -- from glass shards at a car accident to a patient needing a Narcan injection to reverse the effects of opioids. Nitrile gloves have sufficient cut- and puncture-resistance to protect in either of these situations. Latex gloves were historically the preferred cut-resistant choice, but now they are often avoided due to widespread latex allergies.

    In a situation such as a car accident, first responders may opt for an even thicker glove to protect them against possible glass shards or sharp edges of torn metal. Glove thicknesses vary, with a typical nitrile glove averaging about 4 mil; in these types of situations, however, many would opt for a thicker glove, up to 8 mil. Once the patient is stabilized and on the way to the hospital, an EMT or other responder would be able to change into a somewhat thinner glove, making it easier to check for a pulse or perform any procedure that requires increased dexterity.

    Choosing the Color

    Color should also be a fact taken into consideration when purchasing gloves for EMTs or police officers. Many police departments prefer black gloves. Besides for their professional look, black gloves blend in with dark uniforms and provide decreased visibility, which is important in the case of a shootout or other situation where police are targeted. It can also be helpful in identifying cocaine, since the white powdery substance contrasts well on a black background.

    EMTs, on the other hand, often prefer more brightly colored gloves. Some EMS squads use bright orange gloves for increased visibility in a high traffic area. The glove’s lighter color also allows EMTs to write a patient’s vitals or other important information on the glove.

    Many fire departments and EMS squads, however, prefer color coding the gloves according to size. When they’re in a hurry, they can easily grab correctly sized gloves without sorting through the boxes and reading each label. When every moment matters, colored coded gloves can make a great difference.

    In short, there’s no one correct answer when it comes to choosing protective gloves for emergency personnel. Make sure to take into account the situations that the wearer would potentially encounter, and consider all factors before making a decision.