While walking to the office one morning, I noticed a man pressure washing the awning of a retail store similar to the one in the picture on this page. When looking a little deeper, I noticed that he was wearing regular sneakers and not any special type of safety-related shoes. To me, it looked like a very dangerous prospect – standing on a glass surface, wet with soapy water, in regular sneakers with what seemed to have worn out grips.
I wondered to myself whether or not I was witnessing an unsafe employee or was it the company that failed to provide or mandate using proper safety equipment to complete the job. Do they care if the man slips off the awning? Would they blame the employee for being reckless? This prompted me to do a little investigation into what would be the proper equipment for this type of job, which took me to WorkSafeBC.
Clarence, my safety advisor, shared some detailed information on the proper safety procedures when pressure washing awnings which are over 10 feet from the ground. He said that this particular worker should have been using either 3 Point Contact or Fall protection. Basically, the employee needs to always have 3 points of contact when working, be that two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand. If he’s using 2 hands to use the pressure washer, he would have to use Fall Protection (Body Harness, Tie-Down, Scaffolding, etc.). Clarence also confirmed that tennis shoes are okay as long as they have a rubber grip.
Based on my brief look at the situation it did appear that the employee was not following regulations and he was not in fact acting like a safe individual. Not knowing the details of the company itself, here are three possible reasons for this employee not wearing the proper footwear for the job.
Alternative 1: Employee Knows Proper Safety Equipment But Does Not Use It
If it was found that the employer does in fact encourage employees to use the proper safety equipment, the employee is then choosing not to use proper support equipment and is putting himself at risk for reasons we can only speculate. Based on our research, this person would likely score in the “Higher-Risk” percentiles of Resistant and Impulsive.
“Resistant” individuals are known to disregard authority and rules and will be resistant to feedback.
Therefore, knowing that the company mandates using 3 point contact for the job, this employee decided instead to operate with no support, openly defying the rules because of the little to no supervision on the job.
“Impulsive” individuals tend to seek excitement, enjoy taking risks and may underestimate possible negative consequences of their actions.
By using a support on a job that has a real chance of injury (i.e. falling off the awning onto the concrete), this employee is clearly underestimating the dangers of cutting corners and has likely not thought through his decision.
Alternative 2: Does Not Know Proper Safety Equipment For The Job
If the employer does not provide enough safety training then the employee merely does not know his is being unsafe. With limited supervision, training and coaching, employees like this do not have sufficient knowledge to make safer working decisions. This is the type of situation where third party intervention may be required to get the employer to start investing in safety training while providing the proper equipment to complete the job.
Ultimately it is up to the individual to act in a way that minimizes the risk of incidents causing personal injury, work stoppages, and equipment damage. In a perfect world all employers would provide proper training and safe working equipment, but many times that does not happen. Therefore, it is up to the worker to make safer working decisions and minimize the risk of causing incidents on the job or behind the wheel.