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How to Get Older Workers to Buy Into a PPE Program

by Joe Geng on June 23, 2015

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Older workers are often a valuable resource of knowledge and technical skill at work. Experience is a wonderful asset for your workforce and can increase productivity on a job site.

Occasionally, more seasoned workers can also feel that due to their experience they are not as susceptible to injuries. This might lead to them electing not to use personal protective equipment, also known as PPE. What injuries are older workers prone to receive and what are some ways to get older workers to realize the importance of using PPE?
older worker vector
Long Term and More Severe Injuries
Older workers are less prone to injury in general. They do not make the novice mistakes that younger workers may. This means when injuries do occur, they are typically more severe and require longer recovery times. Older workers are also more likely than younger workers to experience a fatal injury.

Education and Training
Older workers are sometimes accustomed to performing a particular job a certain way. They have been doing it that way for many years, and will be resistant to changes in procedures. They can see the addition of PPE as an added hassle or obstacle to getting the job done.

Often times the thought process is that they never needed the PPE before, so why do they need it now? This kind of thinking can lead to workers not utilizing required PPE.
Proper training will help educate older workers on job changes that might require the use of new or different PPE. It will also allow you to show them the right way to use the PPE, minimizing the impact on their job procedures.

Allow More Time to Adapt
Older workers may need more time to adapt to new PPE. Adding new PPE means adjusting processes to include using the PPE you have provided on their tasks.
Consider paring up older workers with younger workers when new equipment or changes in PPE processes are made. This allows younger workers to draw from the experience of older workers while showing the older workers the best ways to employ new technologies.

Dispel Myths about PPE
Older workers may not be familiar with advances in material technology and fabrics. This might lead them to the impression that PPE is bulky, cumbersome and will increase the difficulty of their work. You can help to dispel these misconceptions my introducing them to new PPE and showing them lighter weight fabrics that offer excellent protection for the job.

Match the Task to Abilities
Older workers might have physical restrictions that prevent them from performing certain types of work. While PPE can help protect in some instances, it is better to pair up tasks with workers who will not be limited in their execution. Work to understand what these limitations are and which can be mitigated by PPE and which ones cannot.

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