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Friday, December 19, 2014

Question

Any thoughts on the following memo sent to workers: "Effective immediately, it is required that all personnel working in a housekeeper, janitor, or maintenance position wear safety glasses 100% of the time they are working, regardless of the task they are performing." Is this necessary and is it prudent.


Answer

There are obviously occasions, such as while using an acid bowl cleaner to dissolve mineral deposits in a toilet, when using safety glasses makes sense, although in almost forty years of acid bowl cleaning, Iíve chosen to use caution rather than goggles. In fact, goggles that seal around the eyes would be far more effective than simple glasses that would allow fluids to run easily down behind them in case of a major splash in the face incident.
Beyond that, I can envision (maybe the glasses will help) only a few other occasions when safety glasses would be of any true value. Maybe if a vacuum cleaner bag would explode due to overfill, or if a fluorescent tube were to break when you are changing it. The latter could happen and the first is a joke, for all who are wondering along with those who sent that memo.
Put simply, PPE is valuable only when a need for protection is demonstrated. Even the most cautious people donít wear safety harnesses while sitting in a recliner watching comedy that could possibly cause them to fall to the floor laughing their slippers off. Nor should PPE be treated on the job as fashion accessories to make the worker look cool or safe.
Glasses, gloves, body armor, or whatever tends to be uncomfortable and slows down the worker. Needless use is a waste of time and money and those requiring it in unnecessary settings are themselves wasters of time and resources.
But letís say something in defense of the memo writers. One who is prudent is ďcapable of exercising sound judgment in practical mattersĒ. This does not describe the majority of cleaning industry workers, as is proven by those who fall off scaffolding wearing a safety harness they didnít bother to attach to anything, or those who manage to clear entire buildings by mixing select ingredients in a rest room toilet.
In a misguided attempt to make the habitually imprudent astute the word goes forth to wear safety glasses at all times no matter what the task. The memoist thinks that this constant protection will safeguard even the most inept.
Imagine how confused they will be when, asking a cleaner why he took off his safety glasses and sprayed glass cleaner into his eyes, he explains that he couldnít wash out his eyes with the glasses in the way. More memos on the way.
Would it be too much to ask for better training of personnel in the use of chemicals, PPE, and eyewash so that prudence becomes the norm rather than legislating safeguards for all? The industry needs to stop treating its workers as if they are incapable of exercising good judgment and start insisting that individual evaluation of and response to tasks, and safety and health concerns be the basis for continued employment. The one-size-fits-all approach you describe is demeaning to the skilled worker and is not the way to build a quality workforce.
And you wondered if there were any thoughts on that memo!

Lynn E. Krafft, ICAN/ATEX Editor
lekrafft@juno.com