Survey shows lack of PPE use by U.S. workers

January 13, 2009

U.S. workers are risking workplace injuries by not complying with important safety procedures, according to a survey released by Kimberly-Clark Professional, Roswell, Ga.

The survey found that 89 percent of safety professionals polled at the 2008 National Safety Council (NSC) Congress have observed workers failing to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when they should have been.

This is the third consecutive year that the Kimberly-Clark survey has revealed a high rate of PPE noncompliance. In 2007, 87 percent of respondents said they had observed PPE noncompliance in the workplace, while 85 percent answered yes to this question in 2006.

Given the high rate of noncompliance over the past three years, it is not surprising that when asked to name the top workplace safety issue in their facilities, one-third of respondents cited worker compliance with safety protocols. Next was insufficient management support and/or resources for health and safety functions (27 percent). Under-reporting of workplace injuries and illnesses was third (14 percent), followed by training a multilingual, multicultural work force (7 percent) and escalating worker compensation costs (5 percent).

Thirty-four percent of respondents said the economy had affected worker safety training programs or resources. Of those, 63 percent said there was less money for education and training, 42 percent said there were fewer personnel to handle safety training tasks, and 33 percent said business concerns had taken precedence over safety concerns.

This year's survey also polled safety professionals about the steps they have taken or intend to take to encourage greater PPE compliance. The top response was "improving existing education and training programs," followed by "purchasing more comfortable PPE." Increased monitoring of employees was third, followed by tying compliance to individual performance evaluations and purchasing more stylish PPE.

Kimberly-Clark Professional is a provider of health and hygiene products for away-from-home washrooms, clean and industrial manufacturing environments, and DIY settings.

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