PPE compliance and career progression: in conversation with Simon Field
3M technical specialist Simon Field led a webinar last month titled ‘PPE Compliance: Protecting Your Workers and Your Business’, as part of the science-based technology company’s free safety spotlight webinar series.
SHP followed up with Simon afterwards for an exclusive interview on the topic, in which we also discussed his career in the health and safety industry.
Simon Field, Technical Specialist, 3M
How did you get into health and safety ?
I’ve got a degree in physics, so one of my first science-based jobs out of university was in a laboratory, where I was performing bespoke testing on product samples. I was also doing a lot of compliance research and providing advice on regulations and test requirements for products around the world.
I moved from there to 3M, where my first role was as a safety technician. In that position, I was a little bit more attached to the regulatory side of things, so I was involved in the design terms for new product innovations and I was in charge of the technical files for a range of 3M personal safety products.
From there, I moved to the role I currently occupy, where I’ve become much more customer and industry-focused.
What do you find most rewarding about your job?
Training and education is definitely the most rewarding part of my job. I like to increase people’s knowledge and understanding, particularly when it impacts on management procedures and the safety of the people under their management.
What advice would you give to people looking to work in this area?
I’d say the best thing to do is to get involved as much as possible with local health and safety groups, trade organisations and trade events. Follow the activity of organisations like the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and generally integrate yourself into the health and safety UK scene.
What are some of the common reasons for non-compliance with PPE requirements?
Generally, the feedback that comes from customers is that comfort is a key issue, along with dissatisfaction with the equipment employees are using.
Other reasons include a desire to get things done fast, and people see safety measures as a barrier to that, so they look for shortcuts.
Another barrier is people not fully understanding the hazards they face every day. Bravado is also a key element, in that they think they are tough and can handle it, or that it won’t happen to them.
How can employers ensure their workers comply with PPE requirements?
Worker engagement can fix a lot of problems. If you get their feedback as to why they’re not wearing their PPE, they’ll usually be able to tell you it’s a comfort thing, or it takes too long to put on. Also, if people are involved in the selection process they are more invested in the decision and more likely to comply.
Another aspect is training and education. If people are better informed about the hazards they face, they’re more likely to want to protect themselves.
The other side is that compliance has to be a top-down approach. There’s no point in getting the workers involved if management don’t do it themselves. Managers have to be very visible in complying with any safety requirements, and wherever possible they should engage with workers in a positive way if they see non-compliance in the workplace.
What have you got planned for your next webinar?
My next webinar will be on 14 June, titled ‘Introduction to PPE Validation’.
The last part of the puzzle with regards to PPE compliance is ensuring legal compliance and that the PPE is doing the job it should be. You have to make sure not only that workers are wearing it, but also that it’s protecting them adequately and is suitable for the role they are performing.
This is a really important topic for everyone involved in health and safety, so I’d encourage people to mark their diaries and take advantage of this opportunity to receive free advice and ask any questions they may have.
For more information, or to register for any of the free webinars, visit https://promotion.3Mm.eu/safetyspotlightwebinars/en-gb/