End Users Convey Challenges, Request Help in Choosing PPE

Four safety professionals from across a variety of industries sat on a panel to reveal their greatest challenges with workers wearing and using PPE, how they use performance standards, and what they need from providers of safety gear.

Julie Belcher, Walmart, said her biggest challenges now are freezer wear and fall protection. “OSHA says to make sure all parts are compatible, but manufacturers say don’t mix and match,” she said. “Not everyone likes the same brand. I need help with compatibility.”

All panelists said they experience procurement challenges. Seth Randall, Clark Construction, said sometimes suppliers don’t tell him if a product is in stock or not. “We need better communication between the manufacture and provider,” he said. Marchel Johnson, VDOT, said she has to follow strict procurement guidelines given she works for a government agency. “All PPE is approved by the state,” she said. “If you don’t use VDOT PPE, your worker’s comp claim could be denied.”

Fit was the biggest challenge across the board. From HiViz to helmets, “we need PPE that fits all workers,” said Johnson. She said moving to helmets has been difficult because of workers with elongated heads, thick necks, turbans, or specific hairstyles.

Belcher brought up the topic of tech innovation. “I’m waiting for innovation to trickle down to PPE,” she said. Johnson commented, “Lane intrusion is a huge risk, it would be great to have products that alert my workers when a car starts to come over.”

“Don’t sell yourself short on innovation,” added Randall. “Think about the person in the field. Maybe the technology isn’t there today, but we have to start thinking about it now.”

When asked where they learn about new products, the panelists cited three primary sources: (1) trade shows, (2) trade magazines, and (3) free samples. Randall added, “Don’t rely on distributors to get the latest products to us. YOU need to provide it, or have a sales rep from your office come to us.”

Lindsay Bell, Air Products, and panel moderator, to that point, said, “Sales reps need education and training. They should work with us, educate us, and be our partners.”

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