By: Cory Goeltzenleuchter
Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is not a new topic for pest control operators. We have been stocking service vehicles with gloves, respirators, hard hats, etc., for decades. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that employers must perform a job-specific task hazard analysis. We are held accountable to not only supply specific personal protective measures, but to train employees on proper item usage, maintenance and replacement guidelines. There are many individual standards to review and comply with when talking protective measures, but for the purpose of this piece, let’s focus attention on new employees — specifically newly hired pest control technicians.
A common practice in training and preparing new technicians for the field is the ride-along. This concept embraces the idea of putting the new technician with a dedicated and experienced veteran to assist with field-related training. In doing so, the new technician has the opportunity to help inspect and treat for various pests. But what happens if the new technician doesn’t have any safety equipment dedicated to them in the trainer’s service vehicle?
Consider this scenario: The trainer is completing a termite renewal inspection and is about to head up into an attic to walk the new technician through the inspection. He throws his hard hat and knee pads on, grabs his dust mask and starts walking up the attic ladder waiting for the new technician to follow along closely. This situation could cause the new employee to enter a potentially unsafe area without the appropriate PPE. It’s tough to preach a dedication to safety if we do not always consider our newest employee and the situations they may face during their introductory training period.
At McCall Service, we identified two steps to help address this problem and ensure our newest employees are properly equipped and trained.
Step 1 is a PPE Bag for new technicians. The purpose of the PPE Bag is to ensure the new technician always has their own equipment available to them. The bag contains a first aid kit, soap, hand sanitizer, insect repellent, nitrile and disposable gloves, Tyvek suit, dust mask, assigned respirator, hard hat, safety glasses and goggles, knee pads, apron, face shield and ear plugs. The contents of the kits may vary depending on the role of the employee (lawn, termite, sales, pest control, etc.). This equipment is all placed inside of a large tool bag to make it convenient and accessible for the technician to carry from one trainer’s vehicle to the next. If a need for PPE arises during training, the technician can easily reach into their bag and pull out what they need. This also makes it easier for them to learn about proper care and maintenance of safety equipment.
When the technician gets assigned a service vehicle, management can inventory the truck and identify any missing safety equipment. These items can then be replaced immediately from the PPE Bag. By taking these steps, we ensure that the technician is set up and ready to go.
Step 2 is PPE training for new technicians. One of the core pieces of training that should be conducted before a technician starts on-the-job training is a review of their PPE. Having a list of the items received for the technician to sign off on also will provide you both with documentation of the training and delivery of the PPE.
To complete this hands-on training, take each item out of the bag individually and discuss the following:
- What the piece of equipment is.
- What the equipment is commonly used for.
- How to properly wear or use the equipment.
- How to properly clean, maintain and store the equipment on their service vehicle.
- What to do in the event the equipment breaks or needs to be replaced.
- Finally, cover any company policies that may pertain to the materials (i.e., first-aid kit and reporting injuries).
At the end of the day, the biggest goal with assigning new employees their own personal protective equipment is to ensure their safety in any situation. It is important to have a great company safety culture, and this means leaving no employee behind.
Cory Goeltzenleuchter is the Technical Director for McCall Service. He has a bachelor’s degree in entomology from the University of Florida.
This Tech Talk article was originally published in the August 2020 edition of PCT magazine.