Employees who believe PPE is not necessary for their work or who consider it too uncomfortable to wear run the risk of leaving themselves unprotected and vulnerable to occupational injuries. According to a new survey from Kimberly-Clark Professional, this happens all too often.
Kimberly-Clark Professional conducted an online survey of 119 EHS professionals on their work force PPE compliance. The results reveal that 89 percent of safety professionals observed workers not wearing PPE when it was needed, with 29 percent claiming they had noted this unsafe behavior on multiple occasions. Gina Tsiropoulos, manufacturing segment marketing manager for Kimberly-Clark Professional, said this rate of noncompliance poses “a serious threat to worker health and safety.”
“While the reasons for noncompliance are varied, the threat to workers is clear-cut,” said Tsiropoulos. “Without the proper use of PPE, they are at risk of serious injury or even death.”
The most common reason for PPE noncompliance (at 69 percent) was the belief that PPE was not necessary. But workers also opted out of donning PPE if they believed it to be uncomfortable, too hot, a poor fit, not available near the work task or unattractive.
According to 24 percent of survey respondents, eye protection proved to be the “most challenging” category in terms of PPE compliance, followed by hearing protection (18 percent), respiratory protection/masks (17 percent), protective apparel (16 percent), gloves (14 percent) and head protection (4 percent).
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data show that of the workers who sustained a variety of on-the-job injuries, the vast majority were not wearing PPE. EHS professionals who responded to the survey understand the severity of the situation – 78 percent said workplace accidents and injuries were the concerns most likely to keep them up at night.
These professionals also revealed their two top strategies for encouraging PPE compliance: improving education and training programs (61 percent) and increased monitoring of employees (48 percent). Other strategies included purchasing more comfortable PPE; tying compliance to individual performance evaluations; purchasing more stylish PPE; and developing incentive programs.
Of the 119 participants Kimberly-Clark surveyed online from June 10 through July 1, 63 percent were safety directors or managers, while the other 37 percent were industrial hygienists, facilities or general managers, environmental managers or held other positions. All survey respondents said they were responsible for purchasing, selecting or influencing the purchase or selection of PPE.