The Next Generation of Workers Should Not Have to Choose Between Safety, Comfort and Convenience
Technology and digital platforms have evolved in ways to help protect employees.
- By Tito Warren
- Oct 01, 2021
The future of employee safety requires a holistic point of view. Today, smart leaders recognize this and increasingly look for a safety provider that can meet the needs of their workforce when it comes to proper protective equipment and how they can access these essentials. Employees and safety professionals have higher expectations when it comes to selecting the right safety partner and there are several components they should take into consideration when making this decision: the right products, an efficient and easy-to-use fulfillment program and expert service and support. While it is important to consider the product quality companies are able to provide, it is equally important to consider expertise, support and ability to customize for a well-rounded partnership. Recent technologies and advancements in both product and safety-program solutions can help workers and managers focus on protecting their employees without worrying about the administrative tasks that usually come with managing a program.
In this article, we explore important aspects safety professionals should consider when thinking about the next generation of workers and, in turn, the future of work and safety.
Better Accessibility for Workers, Better Compliance and Tracking for Safety Pros
While employees are thinking about products and ease of purchasing as a priority, safety managers take other factors into consideration to ensure they can properly manage a program. The best way to ensure confidence that your employees are protected is to find a true partner, not just a provider. An ideal PPE partner will be a guide through the outfitting process, working with you to determine your company’s needs and help build customized programs to provide PPE that is purpose-built for the environments your workers face.
Technology and digital platforms have evolved and there are increasing advantages for safety programs through select PPE partners that offer omnichannel fulfillment options. These programs reduce administration time, mitigate risks by assuring the right products are selected for the job and eliminate costly waste and inaccuracies. Additionally, workers can easily translate how they shop in their everyday lives to their work lives and getting the right PPE quickly and easily.
When looking at a partner and considering accessibility for your workers, a comprehensive distribution network should be a priority. Program managers should take into account all the benefits they are able to get from an omnichannel partner with strong digital capabilities including:
Customization. Does the program provide online solutions for you to manage, select and customize safety gear for employees? This feature allows for further flexibility for your company but also facilitates the product selection process, ensuring compliant products are used and help improve safety outcomes.
Time Savings. Regardless of the products offered, an efficient program should always save time for administrators without overcomplicating the process. For instance, if professionals can streamline the process of outfitting employees through an efficient portal, this can eliminate manual verification and minimize inventory carrying costs.
Convenience. An efficient provider should be able to fulfill orders for all your employees regardless of their location. As more companies look into digital solutions, some are implementing best-in-class digital vouchers to ensure employees are able to conveniently redeem as they would like. It is important to select a partner with strategically located stores, manufacturing facilities and distribution hubs, ensuring that PPE solutions and services are available whenever and wherever needed.
Real-Time Insights. As safety professionals look to save time and manage efficiencies, the right PPE provider should guarantee you are able to access real-time visibility and control over employee eligibility and safety compliance, including online tracking of employee purchases.
Best-in-class products are crucial, but the process should begin with an assessment of the dangers your workers face and how those risks can be mitigated, whether that is a product, safety program change or both. Whether an on-site inspection or virtual walkthrough, your PPE partner should do whatever is needed to understand your company, your crew and the safety needs required for protection.
The best partners act as an extension of your business and are available to consult when needed. They will continuously reassess your needs as the work environment changes and keep you aware of PPE innovations or new products that might provide value. Overall, the best providers will make the entire PPE procurement process simple and seamless.
Tapping into New PPE Innovations That Meet Safety Standards and Worker Needs
State-of-the-art product selection is top of mind for employees. As new innovations are developed to enhance technology and fit, employees are looking for protective equipment that is comfortable but can resist common hazards like slips, trips, falls or puncture wounds. After all, uncomfortable footwear can increase the rate of injury and cause injury itself. Other factors such as extreme fatigue, blisters and shin splints can be equally detrimental to worker productivity and job satisfaction.
Recent innovations in safety footwear leverage new materials and development methods for added options that work well in fit, form and function. Innovative safety footwear is now lighter than ever while remaining tough and durable. Below is an overview of advancements in safety footwear to consider.
New, innovative materials have played a significant role in the creation of safety footwear that is lighter than ever before yet performs well under tough conditions. For example, the use of non-metallic safety toe caps. Laboratory and field trials show that non-metallic toe caps can meet the same safety standards as steel toe caps without the extra weight and bulk, allowing for enhanced comfort on the job. Lightweight outsole materials that offer superior traction are another example and are being applied to safety footwear with best-in-class or high-performance slip-resistance results.
In addition, breathable materials like new cooling textiles are being used as lining in shoes and boots so that a day on the job is more comfortable for workers in warmer climates or hot work environments while also helping improve safety PPE. On the opposite end, freezing temperatures require insulation, and paper-thin aluminum technology that reflects and retains body heat is being implemented in some modern safety footwear styles, adding warmth without the bulk of traditional insulation materials.
Fit for Work
It can be difficult to achieve safety performance and better well-being if your employees are wearing improperly fitted PPE such as footwear. The right size and width of a work boot can help ensure all-day comfort and also minimize the chances of jobsite injury. Working with a footwear partner that properly trains all associates to understand how to fit for not only length but also width goes a long way to ensuring the right fit for each worker. Besides more traditional fitting methods, new technologies can provide revealing and indispensable data to offer a custom fit including the unique size, shape, arch height and pressure points on each foot.
Because women’s and men’s feet are shaped differently, it is also important to look at
gender-specific footwear design. Progressive footwear manufacturers are closely examining the differences and introducing purpose-built options made using gender-specific lasts or women-specific patterns to ensure the best fit possible. Having the right footwear selection that considers all employees fosters safety, comfort and inclusivity.
Finally, modern technology allows for work boots to feel comfortable while also looking stylish. New low-profile products that look like stylish sneakers but include important features like toe protection are increasingly common. These options not only meet jobsite safety standards but allow for an easy transition from work to everyday activities for both men and women.
Advancing Safety Solutions for the Work that Moves the World
Safety professionals are constantly working confidently behind the scenes day after day to equip workers with gear that protects them on the job to ensure a job well done and their security. Not only do workers expect safety and comfort, they seek style and versatility as well as the ability to select their PPE as they would any other consumer goods purchase. After all, the first P in PPE is personal—the more an employee is comfortable with their gear, the better adoption and morale they will have on the jobsite.
The right safety partner recognizes the crucial mission of safety professionals and the evolving workers of today and tomorrow. A partner can meet workers where they are—whether that is through retail locations or onsite mobile trucks with trained and knowledgeable personnel who understand the importance of safety, proper fit and satisfaction to equip any worker with the right work PPE for the job. Now is a great time to take advantage of new innovations and solutions that can support employee safety, comfort and overall wellness so safety professionals and their teams can remain focused on doing the important work that moves the world, in the safest way possible.
This article originally appeared in the October 2021 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.