Man in haed hat - Why won't they wear the correct Personal Protection Equipment


Perhaps one of the most infuriating factors for a safety leader is that fact that there is such inconsistency on site as to who is wearing the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at all times. It’s that inexplicable conundrum of human nature and why we won’t do the right thing that will leave you scratching your head under your hairnet or helmet.

There are 3 areas you can look at that may help drive your PPE messages home:




As humans, we will always tend to have that cocky bias that ‘it will never happen to me,’ so it can be quite futile to try to influence the individual. Where you have more leverage is if you influence the team and spread the message via team accountability. When it’s a team thing, and whether or not you make it around a competitive goal or team solidarity, it will have more impact and effect. The ripple effects will also spread to visitors and contractors because it’s the team that will hold them accountable too.

A site I work with found this when one of their operators injured themselves because they weren’t wearing their gloves. Rather than discipline him as per usual, they decided to pass ownership of the incident over to the team. What that team decided to do was to all commit to wearing gloves at all times, as they do with their other PPE, so that none of them would be in the position again to forget to put their gloves on at the machine. They will already be wearing them. The team now know that when they put their gloves on, it’s in solidarity of their teammate and their close call.



If we keep linking the PPE back to the greater meaning of why stay safe, it will help create that emotional connection that sticks longer than the rational reasons.

We all have different values in the context of work, and if you know each person’s most important values, you can help create that link between the ‘why’ and the action. If we can create a story behind the purpose of the PPE for everyone, it will help activate one of the prime directives of our unconscious minds, which is to protect us.



We also need to keep reminding ourselves and others to do the right, or better, thing. This is in all areas of life, as we all know. Starting a new habit is extremely challenging, and we need to stick with it as long as it takes to rewire our brains to make it second nature.

It’s useful here to consider adult learning. Peter Wilkinson, GM at Noetic Solutions, spoke about this when talking about becoming a HRO (High Reliability Organisation) at the recent ProSafe conference. There are some fundamentals that we need as adults to make learning a success.


We need to be:

  • Ready to learn
  • Our experience needs to be used
  • We need to be able to apply our learning
  • We need to know why we need to learn this


By making our safety interactions more involved and interactive, it will help incorporate these four key elements into our safety messages, be it about PPE or other topics, and will therefore help engagement, retention and action.

The glue that holds Mateship, Meaning and Memory together is Connection. If we can create connection at the conscious and unconscious level, we can influence. And when we master influence, we get amazing results.


If you’d like to learn more about how to make safe work practices instinctual at your worksites, contact Deborah Keep on 0420 204 982 or