Does PPE Really Matter?

by Jim Digby, Founder / President of Event Safety Alliance


Do uncomfortable shoes, un-fashionable hats, double-lanyard full body harnesses and gnarly bright colors really make a significant difference in your safety?

From airports in Africa, show sites in Singapore, and construction sites in countries around the globe, you’ll find the workforce ALL utilizing personal protective equipment. The practice didn’t happen overnight, nor by chance. Countless studies have proven that properly-used PPE reduces workplace injuries. Insurance companies MUST be recognizing this concept or the mega conglomerates and their leadership would not insist on its use.

Yet in the United States, the use of appropriate PPE on the show site is still far from universal. On a recent show build in a US city that you would think would be more motivated than most to be a shining example of workplace safety, I found precisely none, zero, no one wearing PPE. Not even a single hardhat on the folks most likely to get hit in the head with a shackle - the ground riggers. I find this remarkably short-sited and testament to the fact that we in the American entertainment workforce have a long way to go in affecting the necessary behavioral change surrounding safety.

Why is it that many seem to operate with a blatant disregard to take care of own self interest? Does it stem from the American frontier spirit that we all share? Are we still carrying the cowboy gene in our DNA that impedes our ability to think logically when it comes to looking after ourselves? Is everyone so well-protected by their health insurance and savings accounts that potentially spending a long stint in the ER or incapacitated for months without income is somehow regarded as a good idea? Last we checked we are all still mortal and have a great many reasons to keep ourselves healthy enough to work.

Surely there is a better use of this indomitable American spirit then risking EVERYTHING for a millisecond of time saved.

There is little doubt that when any team are in their PPE there is an unmistakable visual reminder to everyone that work is being performed in a potentially dangerous environment. Your mind cannot help but be more conscious of safety when you look out and see hard hats and hi-vis vests. Even if your protection does not get put to the test on any given day (something we ALL hope for), requiring PPE use sends a clear signal to everyone involved that safety is a priority and careless behaviors will not be tolerated.

Do these things really matter…unequivocally yes!

Shelby Cude