In a recently employee newsletter article, I referenced some average costs for several different types of injuries based on information I found while doing a few quick Google searches. One showed the average total cost (direct and indirect) of a hand laceration to be around $10,000. This number was significantly higher if there was any tendon damage that required surgical repair.
I used this information as a starting point for some discussion around the style of gloves we use for the work we do, the protection we need from these gloves, and the cost associated with providing this protection. If you’ve ever tried to handle small or slippery parts with the wrong type of glove, I would guess you didn’t waste much time before you threw them to the side. And quite honestly, we could probably make a reasonable argument stating that the wrong gloves may even add to the level of risk we’re exposed to while doing certain tasks.
I know many of us have policies in place that require our employees to wear gloves any time they perform certain tasks. In more than 15 years of behavior based safety, I learned that the last thing we should be relying on as the primary reason for wearing any type of PPE was the threat of discipline for not complying with a stated policy. Unless you have a work environment where you can watch over every employee all the time, the threat of discipline is a bit futile… Let’s be honest, how much do we pay attention to speed limits when there’s no police in sight? The most effective thing I’ve ever seen at influencing behavior has been painting a realistic picture of the exposure to risk while doing everything possible to eliminate the reasons someone would take the risk. When I tied this back to glove use, I needed to look for styles that provided exceptional dexterity and grip with some level of cut protection at a minimal cost. Without dexterity and grip, our employees wouldn’t be able to use them. Without at least minimal cut protection, it wouldn’t make much sense to push the issue. But if they were too expensive, the tendency would be to limit access to these gloves. Here’s the kicker: discipline was never really a good option in our environment. Our crews do work up to an hour and a half in any given direction from our main office. We will never be able to look over every shoulder all the time.
After testing several styles of gloves in the field, we’ve landed on something that seems to be working; I’m rarely on a job site now where our team members aren’t wearing gloves! That said, I don’t think this style is exactly what we need, but we’ll keep working at it…
In all honesty, this applies to any type of PPE and many of our other safety policies. If a job is significantly easier to do by taking a risk, that’s exactly what will happen. Our challenge is figuring out what we can do to make it just as easy to do safely! I hope you’re up to it!
Hope this helps,
Wes Dove, SHRM-CP/CHBC
Safety & Human Resource Manager, Blauch Brothers, Inc.