Sometimes the simplest changes are the hardest to implement. Safety training is about achieving behavioral change, and getting people to change their routine, even in a seemingly minor way, can be hard to accomplish unless the individuals involved “buy in” on the benefit (to them – not you) outweighing the effort to change that work habit.
One of the classic examples in apartment maintenance safety is the use of eye protection and gloves. Injuries to both eyes and hands are some of the most common after lifting injuries and slips, trips and falls.
Yet many in our industry don’t bother to wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and many supervisors have not identified work place hazards through a basic hazard assessment. Once you get the right PPE, you can begin to work on the habit change.
Material fragments can come off of various surfaces when the maintenance work includes hand tools or power tools and fly into the eye. Chemical products can splash into the eyes or the vapors can be an irritant. Particulates such as sawdust, drywall dust, pollen, mold spores, fiberglass, lead-based paint dust and asbestos fibers can also be eye irrtants. Hands can be cut, blistered, or penetrated by sharp pointed items including items in trash bags which may contain biohazards in the form of bloodborne pathogens.
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for chemical products frequently call for eye protection , gloves and working in a “well-ventilated area”. The latter may mean opening windows and using a fan to blow chemical fumes towards the outdoors where they can dilute in the atmosphere to the point where they don’t represent a hazard.
Resistance to wearing goggles for many is due to fogging that occurs in warm humid weather. Goggles have to fit correctly and be properly vented to protect the eyes while still minimizing fogging.
A trip to the nearest safety supply distributor or a visit from the sales representative allows your workers to try on multiple brands and sizes of eye protection in order to get the right pair for each individual worker. Get a catalog to see the wide variety in eye protection options you have beyond what is available from your regular supplier, whose options may be limited.
There are multiple types of gloves on the market for workers designed to protect your maintenance workers against chemical exposure, cuts, penetration, electrical hazards, abrasion, heat, cold and many other hazards. On one safety distributor website I use regularly, I counted twenty-two different types of gloves.
If your efforts to get your staff to wear the appropriate PPE prevents even one eye or hand injury that would have otherwise required medical treatment and caused a lost time injury, your efforts will likely have paid for themselves.
Safety management to avoid these financial losses is a mandatory level of effort for any loss prevention program. Good safety management lowers the cost of worker’s compensation programs and has a direct positive effect on your bottom line!
It’s simple. Eyes and fingers don’t grow back. Your maintenance staff should be wearing eye protection and gloves on tasks they do every day. Make it happen and your workers will be able to see the results!