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Here’s Your Equipment… Now What?

- January 23, 2015 by Thomas Jolliff, ARM, CEES, ALCM (View all posts by Thomas)

On a recent vacation in Colorado, our family practiced the age-old risk management hazard control techniques of avoidance and substitution to ensure we did not get injured skiing. In place of the slopes, we substituted snow shoeing.

The experience was great! No one was harmed during the expedition, and we found another form of exercise that was really enjoyable and easy to do.

As we excitedly rushed into the sporting goods shop to rent our equipment, I was reminded of a recent OSHA training I attended which covered personal protective equipment (PPE); more specifically, how to properly train employees to use PPE. The example used in the OSHA class was hearing protection (ear plugs), and the instructor demonstrated step-by-step how to properly insert the ear plugs per manufacturer’s instructions.

In the store, the clerk eyeballed the size of our feet, picked out snow shoes that seemed about the right size, and then gave us a quick tutorial on how to strap our feet into the shoes. We were all adults but also all novice snow shoe people.   As a group of four, we came up with four different ways to get our feet into the shoes and not one of our techniques was elegant.

Being a visual learner, I watched my family members for a few seconds to see how they were putting on their gear, then attempted to strap on my shoes.  All the while, the clerk stood watching, but offering no insight into the best practice for putting on snow shoes. As an aside, putting on snow shoes in the warmth of a store is a much different experience than putting them on in the outdoors, while standing on slippery surface and balancing on one leg…  You get the picture.

Tying this back to risk management and the importance of training, I should have asked the clerk for more specific instructions since I was not 100% clear on how to wear the equipment, and our clerk should have explained, step-by-step, how to unhook the shoe straps, slip one foot in, secure the strap, then repeat with the other foot.

This training scenario plays out every day in the workforce with new hires and new workplace processes and equipment. To ensure your workers understand how to correctly use their equipment, and wear their PPE, you have to show them the proper way.  Then ask them to repeat the process to show competence and understanding.  Show them again if needed, observe daily and repeat training as necessary.