When an improvement notice came in from WorkSafe, Hazeldine Construction knew it was time to evaluate how they managed airborne risks and what Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) they were providing their team.
With the support of their onsite health and safety committee, their journey to preventing respiratory harm began.
“We recognize the importance of working collaboratively. We have dedicated health and safety staff in the office as well as representatives that go on site with the team so that we can actively mitigate risks and listen to any concerns the guys might have,” says Jasmine Hazeldine, Office Manager and co-owner at Hazeldine Construction.
Hazeldine Construction initially employed disposable P2 masks but with limited capacity to shape them to individual faces, and supply issues as a result of COVID-19, their processes needed to be adapted.
“We tried a number of different suppliers and mask shapes to ensure our staff had the right fit for them” explains Jasmine. The Hazeldine Construction team now get RPE fit tested every year, one-on-one training, and ongoing workshops to ensure they fully understand both respiratory risks and the benefit of using proper RPE gear.
“We talk to the team about the importance of being clean shaven, how to recognize when their filters are full and when to change them.”
“That’s why the education around RPE is really important. We find that as long as we give the guys information and explain the process, they really do jump onboard.”
Respecting that not everybody on their team wanted to shave their face, the business made sure to provide specialized RPE gear that could be worn by people with facial hair.
“One of our guys has a full beard which he didn’t want to shave, so we looked at a number of options for him and ended up purchasing him a positive pressure mask,” says Jasmine.
Listening to their team and valuing their input has really helped the businesses engagement with proper RPE practices, explains Jasmine.
“Getting the other boys to shave and wear masks is the easy part, it’s getting the knowledge and understanding around proper health and safety practices that can be challenging.”
“We are really starting to see a change in behavior from our team. Working with a health and safety approach is becoming the norm.”
Jasmine’s advice to organisations at the beginning of their RPE journey is not to be scared.
“Just keep working through and ask for help when you need it. There are so many people that are out there to help and offer advice.”
BreatheFreely(external link) is an initiative of NZOHS supported by WorkSafe also provides free and valuable resources.
You can find out more about how shaving your beard can save your life on the Life Shavers page.