• Venessa
    We're a horticulture business and one of the hazards of the business is employee's cutting themselves when cutting the vegetables in the Packhouse. Finger cuts account for almost 50% of the company's injuries. The employees were all issued with level 5 cut resistant gloves. They complained the gloves were uncomfortable and too thick. Some also said it made them sweat. I assessed the issues and gave them cotton gloves to wear under the thinnest possible level 5 cut resistant gloves. Some have chosen to just wear the cut resistant gloves. There are 2 or 3 employees who refuse to wear the cut resistant gloves. The employees have been educated in the use of PPE given and discussions held in the toolbox meetings, health and safety meetings as well as speaking to the individuals separately. They are still not wearing the gloves.

    Is there any guidance or recommendations regarding how to handle this situation? One option I'm considering is having employees sign an acknowledgment form stating that they choose not to wear gloves and accept full responsibility for any consequences. However, I'm concerned about how this aligns with the responsibilities of a PCBU (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking) under the Health and Safety Act. I've contemplated involving HR, but my past experiences with HR support have been challenging, and I'm never informed about the outcomes. Despite discussing the HR matter with the CEO, a satisfactory resolution to the issue has not yet been reached.
  • Robb
    Firstly - I know nothing about your industry, so the following could quite possibly be laughed off the forum...but I'll go out on a limb and ask these questions anyway.
    1. Has the company fully investigated the thing that is causing the cuts? Are the knives, shears, and other cutting thingies (technical term, of course) fit for purpose? Are there alternative sharp-cutting things?
    2. Has the company investigated to see if there is a trend of where, when and how the cuts occur? Do they happen more frequently in the mornings or afternoons? Is it from cutting a particular vegetable? Is it a particular shift?
    3. Has the company consulted with the staff about what they see as the best way to control the risk (other than "being careful!")
    4. Has the company sat down the 2 or 3 workers to find out why they don't see gloves as the fix?

    Before resorting to PPE as the preferred control, companies should, through consultation with their employees, look at alternative and higher-level control methods.
  • Venessa
    Hi Robb
    Thanks for the input.
    We grow leafy green vegetables and the process in the Packhouse is cutting off the bottoms of the vegetable. It is a fast paced environment and that is one of the issues. To slow down the process for individuals, more staff have been employed .
    Sharp knives must be used to prevent damage to the produce. In answer to your questions:
    1. A full assessment has been carried out and different options trialled including using chopping boards. The chopping boards were before my time. I still think they would be a better option but have been told the product got damaged as too much force was being applied and the boards did not fit well even after trying to set them at different angles.
    2. Yes we have looked into the times and veges. It is random.
    3. We have inducted and trained all the staff in the correct techniques. We have asked for input on controlling the risk. The majority mentioned gloves.
    4. I've sat down 2 of the workers separately and they aren't use to wearing them and find them uncomfortable. They only wear the one glove on the non dominant hand. The problem with one of the workers is she has been with the company a long time and is not adapting to change. Unfortunately this does have a negative impact on other workers.

    Due to the nature of the business, at this point, there are no other alternatives except PPE.
  • Don Ramsay
    They cannot sign a waiver as the responsibility remains with the PCBU to ensure that the correct PPE is being used.

    I must ask how the cuts are occurring, is it down to technique and ergonomics, I would look at the operation in great detail and break it into components, to see if a small change in the process could reduce the risk and occurrence.

    At the end of the day if they are required to wear particular PPE there should be an education process and in worst case a HR process, I have just been in a similar position for PPE in the work place, and the HR route is a last resort.
  • MattD2
    They only wear the one glove on the non dominant hand.Venessa
    Is this a reasonable compromise? Without great knowledge of the process I would assume it is hard to cut the hand the you are holding the knife with, are the majority of cut injuries to the non-dominant hand holding the produce?

    The option to have them sign a waiver is not a viable one as you cannot contract out of your H&S duties (S28 of the Act). However also under the act (S45) an employee has the duty [paraphrasing] to comply with any reasonable instruction from the employer, and to co-operate with any reasonable policy or procedure with regards to H&S. I would assume that the 2-3 employees would be a very small percentage of the total workforce required to wear gloves, and that would be some evidence that the "glove policy" is reasonable - but as says the HR route should be considered as the last resort (and it sounds like you want to avoid going that way too).

    It is a fast paced environment and that is one of the issues. To slow down the process for individuals, more staff have been employed .Venessa
    This shows that you have also been considering the other factors leading to this risk, and implemented other measures to reduce the risk (rather than just reaching for the PPE). Have you seen a reduction in cut injuries from this increase in employees / slowing down individual productivity requirements? It may be hard if the gloves were introduced at the same time, but this could be from a discussion with the workers with them providing details on how often they consider the gloves prevented a cut injury, or how quickly the gloves are being damaged or need to be replaced (or a increase in knife sharping frequency if chain-mail gloves are being used). To work with the remaining workers hesitant on the gloves, and to show continual improvement in H&S too, can they work with you to propose alternatives measures to reduce the risk of cut injuries from the task - and if they are feasible and eliminate the need to rely on PPE then you can start looking to remove the requirement for the gloves.

    There are 2 or 3 employees who refuse to wear the cut resistant gloves. The employees have been educated in the use of PPE given and discussions held in the toolbox meetings, health and safety meetings as well as speaking to the individuals separately. They are still not wearing the gloves.Venessa
    Non-compliance with a reasonable safety practice can often be not due to the requirement itself but because of a perceived lack of autonomy, input into the requirements or control over the workplace practices. I understand you have worker engagement procedures in place, but are those procedures practical and effective? (both regarding the cut-resistant glove issues, but also possibly unrelated issues).
  • Venessa
    Thank you for the informative response.

    The employees wear the glove in the hand they hold the produce in. This was a compromise to them wearing both gloves as there were a few who found the gloves difficult to control the knife.

    Majority of the employees are in NZ on working holiday visas from Asia and are only in the country for 3 to 6 months. This poses another challenge for H & S as there is sometimes a language barrier and we have to get a staff member to interpret the induction. I use a lot of imagery in the induction and have included mandarin and English in the presentation and written documents too.

    The high staff turnover is a contributing factor to the cuts. I should have mentioned this is in my initial question.

    I think reviewing the induction process may be something else I should look into.
  • Venessa
    Thank you to you all for time, wisdom, and willingness to share on this issue. Your input has been incredibly valuable. The perspectives offered have given me a fresh understanding of how to approach and tackle the issue. I now have practical solutions that I hadn't considered before.

    I'd like to add it's heartening to be part of such a supportive community where individuals generously contribute their expertise to help others.
  • jason farrow
    i work in a similar industry, and we simply can't have non compliance with cut gloves.
    This should be made clear at induction, if there is an issue with the PPE issued then try other types until you find the right glove.... if they can't wear or use the PPE, after you have done everything possible to find suitable gear then take them off the knives and eliminate the risk.
    Staff should not be doing the job if they can not or will not abide by the PPE requirements.
    Supervision needs to be looked at, some things need to be handled in a firm manner.
  • Trudy Downes
    It is pretty important, as Robb said, to include people in the problem solving, rather than inflicting a solution on them.

    I read an old case study once where particular miners were going deaf but they refused to wear hearing PPE because the deafness was a status symbol of their elite role. Imagine the process that bosses/consultants went through to discover that! The issue was overcome by a different status symbol - I think it was as simple as different shirts than everyone else.

    Google "finger guards chopping vegetables" and there are some guards that are based on ring attachments rather than gloves, or some of the gloves are for finger tips rather than the whole hand.
    Trial alternative safety PPE with a small group and treat them as elite - see how (or if) everyone else wants to get in on the action and be elite too.
  • Andrew
    I would just add that talking about gloves at the induction is too late.

    Given its obviously an employment issue it needs to be raised through the recruitment process. Probably starting at the job ad which should include "Wearing Safety Gloves Is A requirement of this Job"

    You don't want to be wasting your time, and then employing someone only to find at induction they don't want to wear gloves.

    A belt and braces approach is to also include it in the Employment Agreement. "Gloves are to be warn at all times....." kind of thing. (I'm not a fan of safety going into employment agreements - but expectations do need to be clear. Perhaps in the job description.
  • Don Ramsay
    yes there is usually a clause in the IEA that states that the worker will follow all company rules and procedures of which PPE is one.

    The workers safety is foremost and the PCBU will be held liable if they are injured, especially if you have provided the PPE and not ensured that they use it. Worksafe would be in the mind that the PCBU did not enforce safety standards, that being wearing of gloves and the PCBU did not do anything to correct the situation.

    Just some thoughts
  • Andrew
    That's why its important to properly assess the risk and put in appropriate proportionate controls.

    If you just blanket the place with PPE, and something goes wrong with a person not wearing PPE it will be a bigger enforcement issue.
  • Venessa
    I totally agree. Thank you for your input.
  • Venessa
    The problem is they have complained the gloves affect how they hold the produce as they cannot feel if they are applying too much pressure and so many more excuses. The fingers are the main areas they're cut and feeling the produce comes from the fingers. Therefore, the finger guards won't solve the issue.
  • Trudy Downes

    Yep I figured that may be the case, I am not particularly fond of gloves. The guards I was talking about was the metal ones that attach to one or two fingers like a ring, but your finger tips are free. (see photo)
    Screenshot 2023-12-05 085315 (11K)
  • Venessa
    Those guards give food for thought for a few products. For the majority they hold the produce in the air and slice it while turning. Thanks for that.
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