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Toolbox Tuesday: Ignore PPE at your peril

Imagine you're watching an NFL football game. About 10 minutes before game time, both teams take the field. Only there's something terribly wrong with this picture. As the players trot onto the field through a phalanx of smoke, lights and pompom-waving cheerleaders, it's apparent they they don't have any pads or helmets. Just their jersies, draped loosely around their muscular bodies. If hockey is more your style, picture a goalie with no face mask or body and arm pads - just a stick and bare hands between him and a 90-mile-a-hour puck streaking like a rocket toward him. Or imagine a race car driver squeezing into the tight cockpit of a Formula 1 race car without a helmet or a fire-resistant Nomex suit. Just some old-fashioned goggles for a leisurely 150 mph jaunt in the country. "But somebody's going to get hurt," you protest. That's exactly the point. Pads. Helmets. High-impact face masks. These are the personal protective equipment (PPE) of professional sports. If you can't imagine these sports heroes without their PPE, why are you so willing to work without it? "It's too heavy." "It gives me a headache." "They're too hot." We've all heard or used these excuses. You're not alone. The sports figures you admire have similar complaints. That horse collar to which the F1 driver attaches his helmet is a pain in the neck - literally. The pads and helmet worn by footballers are bulky, uncomfortable and can be unbearably hot on a 95-degree football field. But these professional athletes know something that many workers take for granted: They know that their temporary discomfort on the field, the track or the rink are nothing compared to a lifetime of pain and suffering caused by a paralyzing injury. Or, worse yet, a life cut short. It happens every day on job sites around the world. A worker says, "I'll be fine. I'll be safe. Nothing will happen to me. I've done it so many times before and nothing bad has ever happened." Until it does. Get used to your PPE. It could save your life one day. Instead of laying at home or in a hospital bed, you can be on the job, enjoying an uninterrupted paycheck. Professional athletes know what they need to do to protect themselves when doing their "work." It's time for us to do the same and stop giving in to laziness. Wear your PPE! Sources:

  1. 180 Safety Talks for Supervisors from the Colorado Contractors Association

  2. Image by Craig Hawkins, used by permission of Creative Commons.

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