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How to introduce new PPE and minimize worker complaints

by Julie on June 6, 2014

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Introducing Change in the Workplace

Change is scary and difficult, but sometimes it has to happen. When you are a manager in the workplace and you need to implement a change, it is a foregone conclusion that you will face some resistance from workers.

Staff will almost always grumble about the introduction of a new policy or procedure, a new safety implementation, or the introduction of a new piece of personal protective equipment (PPE). They will want to know what purpose this new change serves, when from their point of view, everything was just fine the way it was.

Here are some tips and ideas for introducing a new piece of PPE in the workplace while minimizing worker complaints.

1. Know Your PPE Needs

The first thing you need to do is be sure that you know what you need from the new safety gear. The worst thing you can possibly do is introduce change just for the sake of change. Be certain that you need the new PPE before introducing it into the workplace.

Every workplace has its own risks and dangers, and the proper strategy to protect your workers is important, with the overall goal to reduce and eliminate hazards as efficiently and effectively as possible. If you can control hazard risks right at the source, you will likely eliminate the hazard from the workplace altogether.

PPE is what you use when the hazard cannot be removed at the source, but the work has to go on. It should not be considered a fix-all solution, but as necessary protection for equally necessary dangerous situations. This is important because if you start introducing PPE as a first line of defense, your workers may feel devalued.

In other words, before you introduce new safety clothes and/or equipment in the workplace, make sure it’s needed. Don’t implement change just for the sake of change. While the equipment may look great in an article or on a brochure, don’t force it on your workers if it is not needed or suited to your workplace.

2. Have a Plan

When you decide to introduce new PPE, plan a strategy for introducing the equipment, and have a protection strategy in place so that you can “sell” the implementation to your workers. There are several major elements you will want to address when you introduce the new PPE.

  • Stress worker protection. You want to make it very clear that you are introducing this PPE because you value your staff and want them to be safe.
  • Compliance issues should also be made clear, if this is a reason for the introduction. Let your workers know that the new piece of equipment will improve compliance or bring you into compliance with current laws and regulations, as well as company standards. While employees may not be happy with additional policies, if they understand the new equipment is for legal reasons, they will generally be more accepting.
  • Control methods should be clearly addressed. Talk about exactly how this new equipment will protect the workers, and the ways in which it will help without interfering in your staff’s ability to do their work.

3. Implementing the Plan

When you prepare to implement your plan, make sure that you engage your staff in the introduction of the new equipment. Build awareness among your staff by conducting a survey to allow you to evaluate the staff’s attitudes towards the new equipment so you can properly address these concerns.

Remember, in order to keep morale high, you want to sell this idea to your staff, not dictate. When you are ready to introduce the new equipment, you may want to think of doing so in stages, with a trial period followed by another survey.

When you do make the broad introduction, make a clear announcement of the new policy, explaining in concise but clear terms why you have decided this implementation is necessary. Send an email, post physical notices, and call meetings. Provide as much information as you can about the reasons for the change, and be willing to address individual questions and concerns.

Above all, be patient. A new policy takes time to gain acceptance.

4. Leadership, Training, and Review

The effectiveness of leading by example cannot be underestimated. Make sure that you abide by your new policy and use the new PPE yourself. Do so where your staff sees you doing it, so that they know you don’t implement policies that don’t apply to you. This will improve employee buy-in.

Offer training with the new equipment. Even something as simple as a glove may have best practices that can be communicated through brief training sessions.

When the new equipment has been in use for a period of time, conduct review and evaluation sessions. Call staff together to discuss how the new equipment is working, whether policies need to be adjusted, or whether more training is needed. Once again, the more staff involvement you can have, the better your buy in will be.

5. Lines of Communication

When you have the new equipment introduced, the process does not end. Keep the lines of communication open. If a staff member has questions or concerns moving forward, be available to discuss those concerns, and above all, take the time to really listen to what your staff has to say. They might actually make a good point about a way you can adapt policies to improve not only employee acceptance, but efficiency and safety as well.

Engage in team-building exercises to celebrate the staff’s successes with the new equipment. Barbecues, pizza, or other staff luncheons are always a popular means of building morale and a sense of teamwork and camaraderie amongst your workers. Staff appreciation meetings where you pass out awards and recognitions are another always-appreciated option to reward compliance with the new policies.

Wrapping it up

In the end, the most important thing you can do when introducing a new piece of personal protective equipment, like our work gloves or protective sleeves, is to be an effective communicator. Show your staff that they matter, that you want to protect them and their opinions are important to you. Engage in team-building exercises and reward compliance. Lead by example, and if your staff sees that you value them, you will find acceptance of the new policies will go much smoother.

If you feel your company could use an analysis and review of current PPE to see if it meets, exceeds or misses your actual requirements, you can request a free on-site analysis from Superior Glove. Contact us to find out more!

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