Survey finds high rate of worker noncompliance with PPE protocols

August 9, 2011

In a survey released today by Kimberly-Clark Professional, Roswell, Ga., 89 percent of safety professionals said they have observed workers not wearing safety equipment when they should have been. Twenty-nine percent said this has happened on numerous occasions.

"This high rate of noncompliance with PPE protocols presents a serious threat to worker health and safety," said Gina Tsiropoulos, manufacturing segment marketing manager for Kimberly-Clark Professional. "While the reasons for noncompliance are varied, the threat to workers is clear-cut. Without the proper use of PPE, they are at risk of serious injury or even death."

OSHA requires the use of personal protective equipment to reduce employee exposure to hazards when engineering and administrative controls are not feasible or effective. However, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that of the workers who sustained a variety of on-the-job injuries, the vast majority were not wearing PPE.

The survey examined the reasons for such high levels of noncompliance. Of those respondents who observed PPE noncompliance in the workplace, 69 percent said the primary cause was workers thinking that PPE wasn’t needed. Other causes cited were that the equipment is uncomfortable, too hot, unattractive, fits poorly, and is unavailable near the work task.

Eye protection was found to be the "most challenging" PPE category, according to 24 percent of respondents. The next highest category for noncompliance was hearing protection at 18 percent. Those were followed by respiratory protection/masks (17 percent), protective apparel (16 percent), gloves (14 percent), and head protection (4 percent).

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