February 28, 2018 | Derek |

How to Get Older Workers to Buy Into Your PPE Program

When a coach looks to fill the team roster, the goal is to pad the team with players of various ages. The coach is looking to mix the energy and athleticism of the younger players with the fine-tuned skill and experience of the older players.

Your workplace is no different. Older workers offer valuable knowledge and technical skills. This experience is a wonderful asset for your workforce and it can increase productivity on a job site.

senior construction worker

While we focus mainly on age in this post, older workers can also be defined as more seasoned workers. I.e. a 30-year-old who has been working for the same company for 10 years. Regardless of your definition of “older workers,” more seasoned workers feel that they are not as susceptible to injuries because of their experience.

You may have heard it in your own workplace through comments like “I’ve been doing this for 30 years and never been hurt.” Employees with this mindset will typically reject using personal protective equipment (PPE).

As we pointed out in the post Cutting Corners Doesn’t Pay:


“I’ve been driving for thirty years and I’ve never had an accident, but the first thing I do when I get behind the wheel is put on my seat belt because my past successes don’t dictate my future risks.”

Repeating this phrase every time an employee complains about wearing the prescribed PPE isn’t an effective way to get buy-in. Instead you need strategies to make sure that your more experienced workers are doing their jobs safely while meeting company standards.


Long Term and More Severe Injuries:

In general, older workers are less prone to injury than younger workers. When it comes to lacerations, workers 65 and over report the fewest percentage of lacerations (5.46). This is compared to workers under 25 who have the largest percentage of lacerations (29.9).

On the flip side, more seasoned workers do not make the novice mistakes of younger workers. This means when injuries do occur, they are typically more severe and require longer recovery times. Older workers are more likely than younger workers to experience a fatal injury.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2016, of the 5,190 workplace fatalities, workers over the age of 55 accounted for 35%.

construction site buildings

Education and Training:

Seasoned workers grow accustomed to performing particular jobs in certain ways and are resistant to procedural changes; seeing the addition of PPE as an obstacle to getting the job done.

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 workers on job changes that 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.

Promoting a safety culture will not only encourage seasoned workers to wear the appropriate PPE, it can also reduce injuries company-wide. Learn more about the benefit of safety cultures here.


Allow More Time to Adapt:

Older workers may need more time to adapt to new PPE or adjust to new work processes.

Consider pairing older workers with younger workers. This allows younger workers to draw from the experience of older workers, while showing the older workers the best ways to employ new technologies.

construction site colleagues


Involve These Workers in the Selection Process:

Your older workers have the experience, so use it to your benefit when choosing PPE by asking their opinions. The more buy-in you get ahead of time, the easier it will be for compliance later on.

Keep in mind: It doesn’t matter the age of your employees, if it’s not comfortable, they will not wear it.


Need more advice for outfitting your workers?

Read “The PPE Bible” now!


Derek Coughlin
About Derek Coughlin