Health and safety

Masks Are So This Season: Addressing PPE Refusals

July 07, 2020

As an employer or HR professional, you know your responsibility is to create a safe and healthy workplace for your employees and reduce the risks that hazards pose. You can implement various methods to achieve this, including eliminating a hazard, implementing administrative controls or barriers, but the last resort is the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

PPE is a last line of defence to minimize employee exposure when a hazard cannot be eliminated. This equipment can be extensive and may include respirators, aprons, gloves, or eye and foot protection, depending on the hazard. The problem with PPE is that it is only effective if it is used and used properly. Employees who are unwilling to wear required PPE can be difficult to manage.

Health and Safety - 3 Masks
Many employees are not strangers to wearing PPE, so added requirements may not feel as shocking to them, but the COVID-19 pandemic has changed all workplaces. Some employees who didn’t need masks, gloves, or face shields before the pandemic began now must wear them. This is new for many employees, but it also brings new situations for employers and HR professionals.

Employees might refuse to wear PPE. Although it may be tempting to jump to the conclusion that these employees are stubborn or careless, this may not be the case, so it’s hasty to go straight to progressive discipline without having a conversation with the employee. If your organization has never required PPE before and never dealt with refusal conversations, you might wonder what to do. 

When addressing employee PPE refusals, first determine why the employee isn’t using the equipment. Your approach to handling the situation should be adapted to their response. Download our FREE Refusal of PPE Conversation Guide for guidance on handling common concerns or reasons employees refuse to wear PPE.

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