Have you ever sat and watched everyone coming into work for the day and really paid attention to them?  How they drive in, how they park, and the habits of their daily routine.  All of this information can give you some good insight on your staff, but today, I want to talk about one personal preference that, when translated into safety gear, is a huge pet peeve of mine.

Wearing a hard hat or bump cap backwards like they wear their baseball caps!!!!

When you are watching your people, take note of who has their baseball caps on backwards.  They are more likely to do the same with their hard hats. Look, I get it – it’s stylish, it’s they way they always wear their hats, it’s more comfortable to them.

Whatever!!  To me, it screams DANGER and that my training was not effective.

WHY THEY DO IT

To change this behavior, we have to understand WHY they do it.  Just telling people it’s a rule they have to follow it, never works.  We have to get to the root cause of their why first and go from there.

After talking to several new hires about this topic, here are the major reasons I found; you may choose to have these same conversations your staff and come up with different reasons.  Please, if you do, comment below; I would love to hear their rationale for putting their safety at risk.

  1. Style, looks cool, and it’s the way I wear my hats – When it comes down to it, style is feeling like you are part of the “in crowd”; that you are accepted by your peers. It may also be a need to be different from the crowd; so, it is standing out or being in the spotlight.
  2. I can see better, the brim blocks my view – Yes, it is true that a little bit of upward peripheral vision is lost by the brim. But, the cause of this excuse may go a bit deeper, such as poor eye sight, poor fitting, or a misunderstanding of the scope of peripheral vision.
  3. It makes it easier to wipe off sweat – The cause of excessive sweating into the face may be that it’s hot; either the hat is not ventilated or the ambient temperature is hot. But, there are other ways to remedy that situation.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE BRIM?

I like to remember that all features are there for a reason.  Somebody somewhere was hurt that caused it, or had an aggravation that the feature is solving.  So, when I first look at a feature and think that it is stupid or makes no sense, I always fall back to this point (not that hard hat brims are stupid – they save eyes & faces).

Before you can convince your employees to wear the PPE right, you need to know, understand, and believe why it is important to do so.  That WHY has to be personal to the person wearing the hat.  Here are a few reasons why wearing the hard hat or bump cap with the brim facing forward is important:

  1. Protects the eyes and face from falling objects. We all understand that the hard hat itself is designed to protect against falling objects, but the brim is designed to deflect them off of the face.  So, a bag of pebbles, grain, rocks, etc. falls on your head, you are less likely to get it in your eyes too.
  2. Protects against ‘struck by’ incidents. If an object is flying your way, determined to hit you in the face, the brim will be the first point of contact; or at least we hope so; there are way too many factors involved.  In fact, I’m sure your employees will laugh at this one.  But it’s true!  If the object is coming right at you, the brim sticks out the farthest (and some noses).
  3. Protects against bumping into things – if they are head on, that is. You may not want to admit it, but I am sure you have walked into something at some point.  If you are wearing your hat brim forward, then the brim hits it first, either stopping you or warning you your about to have a bad day.
  4. Protects your eyes from glare, reducing eye strain. Nothing more to add to this, ‘cause, it’s the truth. Mic Drop.
  5. Designed to work best when worn correctly. When it is worn backwards, the impact area is changed and the fit of the hat is not good.  Therefore, if something does fall on their head, they will have less to no protection because the suspension system of the hat will not work as designed.

GETTING THEM TO CHANGE THEIR WAYS

The best defense against poor PPE usage is training – EFFECTIVE TRAINING.  Just telling them the benefits and how to don and doff the PPE is not enough.  Throw in some hands-on training.

When you issue a new hard hat or bump cap, do a fitting.  Have the employee put it on and you, as the expert, check the fit.  Make sure it is straight on the head and it is snuggly fit.  Teach them how to adjust it and put it in their hands to adjust.

As you are taking this one-on-one time to assist them with fit, go over some of the most common issues people have.  You might say something like:

“I know some people like to wear their baseball caps backwards to see better, but you always want to wear a hard hat brim forward.  Just wearing it means you are in a hazardous area where something can fall on your head, we don’t want it to get into your eyes as well”

“You want to make sure it fits snuggly so it doesn’t move around.  If you accidently walk into something or if a piece of material is flying at you, you want it to hit the brim first.  Oh! And, if it gets too hot, know that there are sweat bands available, too”

Focus of the causes of their behavior.  If you know they are working in a super-hot environment and the hard hats aren’t ventilated, then you should suspect they will push them back (either backwards or upwards off their forehead).  Providing a better ventilated hard hat with a sweat band gets better results then telling them “I told you to!”

ADDRESSING THE STYLE ISSUE

We spend a 1/3 of our days at work so a little self-expression is nice and makes the work environment more enjoyable.  Going to back to focusing on the cause of the behavior to change it works with style too.

  • If everyone is wearing it the right way, they are more apt to wear it the right way – accountability and peer pressure.
  • Allow them to personalize their hats – stickers, drawings, etc. I once saw an uptick in this issue when our food safety department banned stickers on bump caps; employees still wanted a way to stand out and they started wearing them backwards.  Some rules have unintended consequences and may need to be looked at harder.
  • Specialized hats – allow them to purchase any style they want. I love hard hats that are designed in different colors or styles.  I even saw a mohawk one once.

The point is, let your people have fun with their PPE.  As long as it isn’t affecting the purpose or safety of it.

TAKE ACTION

Maybe this is an issue you’ve never even thought about.  You may have just been happy they were even wearing the hard hat.  Hopefully this gave you a few things to think about.

What I want you to do this week is to take steps to improve the hard hat, or bump cap usage in your operation.  Do an assessment of how it is being worn.  Talk to several employees about their hard hat gripes.  Do a few fittings and see how well they are wearing them.  It may just open your eyes to a problem you didn’t know you had.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN

Leave a comment below and tell my how the review of your hart hat program turned out.  I love hearing about surprises.  If you discover any tips I missed here, or additional excuses employees have, be sure to share them; the more creative the better.

Banner photo credit to www.cpwr.com and www.elcosh.org

Hi, I’m Brye (rhymes with sky)!  I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience.  I train and coach new safety managers on how to effectively do their jobs in the real world.  I specialize in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture.  I would love to help you do the same.

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