PPE is a non-negotiable. But workm8tes who wear PPE are at an increased risk of fatigue and stress.
PPE is necessary for ensuring safety when working with hazardous materials, and a legal requirement, yet the time spent in PPE can lead to increased stress - both physical and mental.
Our research shows that those workers who are required to wear PPE report that they understand the importance of PPE for safety, but also considered it to be cumbersome, restrictive and hot.
For these workers, eyewear that fogs up easily, poor air quality and variable air temperatures are especially frustrating when wearing PPE.
Wearing PPE takes effort. It is often heavy, uncomfortable, and can restrict movement, making manual tasks harder and slower. It is tiring.
Prolonged use of PPE leads to increased workm8te frustration, fatigue, & stress.
Reduce your workm8tes’ stress and risk of fatigue by having good quality, clean and easily accessible PPE. Keep an eye on the ambient air temperature and quality – what is comfortable for you may feel like a furnace for workm8tes in PPE.
PPE does not address the hazard at the source. It is a control measure that works best when used in addition to higher order control measures.
Want to know more about the hierarchy of control approach to risk management?
Protect your workm8tes
You’ve got this. Take a look at the guide we’ve developed to help minimise the impact of wearing PPE on your m8tes.
Reduce the impact of shiftwork and the risk of worker fatigue with these actions
PPE should only be used as a last resort, an interim measure or as a back-up. PPE does not address the hazard at the source. Ensure you have first tried to remove the source of hazard.
PPE must be appropriate for the nature of the work or hazard.
Involve workers when choosing PPE. Having the right PPE that is comfortable, fits appropriately and does not hinder job performance is very important – this may mean that some workers will need different types of equipment.
Soft fabrics are more comfortable to wear and breathable fabrics wick moisture away from the body prevent workers from getting cold when working in cold environments and overheating in hot environments.
Convenience is key. Equipment must be easy to put on, easily accessible and have the least number of separate components as possible. The more items a workmates needs to put on, the less likely they are to do so.
Use items that offer multi-hazard protection, reducing the number of PPE items.
Equipment should be stored appropriately and kept in good working order, clean and hygienic.
Equipment should be regularly repaired or replaced.
Include additional rest breaks, particularly for work that requires high focus and concentration and/or is subject to extreme temperature conditions.
Be aware of heat stress. Workers at risk of heat stress should stay cool, hydrated (ice water and ice slurry) and avoid drinking alcohol wherever possible. Heat stress can increase with consecutive days of exposure.
Consider reducing the layers of clothing under the PPE or using phase change garments / cooling devices.
Reduce the time spent in PPE for vulnerable workers, those who are older, with pre-existing health conditions, on certain medications or are pregnant.
Where possible, assign workers across different aspects of complex or hazardous tasks that require PPE in order to share the load across the team.
Download the PPE action checklist
Find out more about fatigue and reduce the risk of worker stress and injury with these actions and mitigations.
Download the fatigue action checklist
For further information on how to minimise the impact of workm8te fatigue, see WorkSafe Victoria's guide on work-related fatigue for employers.
Control your risks
Depending on the type of work being done not all job demands can be prevented, removed or controlled. When looking to mitigate work-related risks follow the hierarchy of control to maximise effectiveness of your actions. PPE is a last resort when all other avenues for control have been exhausted. When demands cannot be prevented, we can use additional positive actions at both the workm8te and workplace level to help offset the negatives of the job.
But we’re going to level with you – workplace interventions are more effective and lead to longer lasting change.
It is about getting the balance between demands and resources right at the worker and workplace level. This is done through good work-design creating good and rewarding jobs and tackling the causes of work-related stress through prevention and intervention.
We've got the tools for you
Understanding the work-related factors that impact your workm8tes is the first step to tackling the causes of workplace stress.
Learn about the key hazards workers face, how they show up, and what to do about them.
Take our free online assessment and find out what work-related factors are causing your workers stress, and get a tailored list of prioritised actions to tackle them.
Take care to design good and rewarding jobs. Good job design removes, reduces, and minimises the work-related factors that cause workplace stress, and amplifies the parts of a job that are positive and fulfilling. Find out what makes a good job, and take our online job assessment to see how your jobs measure up, and get a tailored action plan to create better, stress free jobs.