February 14, 2019 | Joe Geng |

Work Safe or Work Pink | How Peer Pressure Can Help Promote Hand Safety

Lately, peer pressure has been getting a bad rep.

When you hear the words “peer pressure”, your mind undoubtedly goes to a group of youths up to some nefarious act. Loosely described as the pressure someone feels to perform an act when all his or her friends are also performing the act or pressuring him or her to do so, it has been blamed for everything from bullying to underage drinking.

But peer pressure isn’t just for kids, and it certainly isn’t always promoting bad behavior. In fact, peer pressure can be used successfully on a jobsite to not only ensure worker compliance in wearing their personal protective equipment (PPE), but also to encourage workers to be more attentive and work safer.

In a recent study, safety professionals from oil, gas and energy industries indicated that the number one safety challenge facing their organizations was employee safety-related discipline. In oil and gas, hand and arm injuries were the third biggest hazard faced by workers. In fact, some industry reports put injuries to the hands and fingers at almost half of all oil and gas industry injuries – with a cost of $50,000 to $250,000 per hand injury.

Two innovative programs – the 4Pinc Campaign and Superior Glove’s own palm-print pledge initiative – effectively use peer pressure to encourage a safety culture and reduce hand and arm injuries.

The 4Pinc Campaign

Imagine having to sit by and provide support for a 20-year-old co-worker as a doctor amputated his fingers after a pinch point injury. Unfortunately, this is the exact situation in which Mike Doyle found himself in 2008. Later that year, he also received news that one of his cousins had been diagnosed with breast cancer; one of several loved ones to have received the diagnosis in the last few years.

Going through both these tragedies at roughly the same time got him thinking about what the two had in common and he discovered that it was the number 100. Every day, approximately 100 workers in Alberta will claim a hand injury and an average of 100 women will die of breast cancer (he also discovered 180 men are diagnosed each year). Unhappy with those statistics, Doyle started to brainstorm ways he could make a difference.

Pink Pinch Point Project

In 2009, as the HSE Coordinator at Silverstar Well Servicing Ltd. (Silverstar), Doyle launched the Pink Pinch Point Project (later named the 4Pinc Campaign), to help keep workers safe by raising awareness of both pinch point injuries and breast cancer.

The execution is simple: Whenever a team member was found to be doing something unsafe that could result in a pinch point injury, they were called out by another team member and had to wear a pink hardhat and special pink gloves.

The hardhat was of course for light humor (the typical oil rig employee is male and tough as nails – not the classic demographic for pink PPE) but the gloves actually served an ulterior purpose. The gloves themselves were not pink but black – what was pink was a skeletal outline of all the bones in the human hand, put there as a constant reminder to workers of what they were protecting.

Whatever unsafe act was being performed was photographed and included as a job observation in a training manual for new employees along with instructions on how to safely perform the act to avoid pinch point injuries.

How does breast cancer figure in? Besides using the pink color of breast cancer to raise awareness, Silverstar donated $1 to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation for each job observation added to the training manual. In addition, the company also contributed funds for each “pinch free” project day. Suncor Energy In Situ Drilling & Completions, who contracted Silverstar, was so impressed by the program that they agreed to match all funds raised and implemented the 4Pinc campaign throughout the company.

Why 4Pinc Succeeded

Safety programs and pinch point awareness campaigns aren’t new, but few receive the buy-in and results that 4Pinc did. Program founder, Mike Doyle, believes the difference is simple: The program does what has long been established as the best way to create safer workplaces – it encourages communication and builds a company-wide culture of safety.

The light-hearted nature of the program appeals to both workers and management, creating buy-in across the board. It also creates a sense of comradery as workers look out for one another; normally workers may not feel comfortable calling out their co-workers for unsafe behavior but when there’s humor involved and it’s all in good fun (who wouldn’t want to see their 6’5”, 280 lbs. co-worker in a pink helmet and gloves?) the 4Pinc campaign found that workers enjoyed pointing the finger at their fellow co-workers and calling out unsafe behavior.

Palm Print Pledge

At Superior Glove, we’re about so much more than making innovative, industry-leading gloves. We’re about safety – specifically, reducing hand and arm injuries and creating safer work environments for everyone.

As part of our commitment to reducing hand and arm injuries, Superior’s own Claude Côté delivers engaging and entertaining safety training sessions to staff at client organizations (if your PPE provider doesn’t – it might be time to switch!).

You’ve probably attended safety presentations before; some you may have loved, some you may have hated, but guaranteed you’ve never been to one quite like Claude’s. While Claude is an effervescent presenter with great material to teach, it’s not his charisma that makes his presentations more impactful than the average, it’s what he makes his participants do that truly make his presentations memorable.

At the end of each presentation, Claude has his participants do something very simple that most wouldn’t give a second thought to – but it has an impact. What he has them do is sign a pledge-banner with their palm print. Offered a spectrum of colors to choose from, participants are asked to dip their palms in paint and leave their print on the pledge-banner as a promise that they will take what they’ve learned and put it into practice. The banner is then hung in a prominent place as a reminder of the pledges made that day.

If it sounds like a gimmick, you’ve underestimated the power of peer pressure.

“People would come up to me weeks after a presentation and tell me how much of an impact making that palm print pledge had had on their commitment to safety,” says Claude. “It may seem like an insignificant gesture, but making that pledge in front of your friends and colleagues and then seeing the constant reminder of your own palm print is a real motivator. Nobody wants to let their team down.”

About Joe Geng
Vice President of Superior Glove