Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Workers jeopardize their safety by failing to wear required gear: survey

August 2, 2011
By Manufacturing AUTOMATION

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

“This high rate of non-compliance with PPE [personal protective equipment] 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 non-compliance 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.”

According to the findings, 78 percent of respondents said workplace accidents and injuries were the concerns most likely to keep them up at night. Worker compliance with safety protocols was also cited as the top workplace safety issue. Twenty-eight percent of respondents chose this, while 21 percent selected “fewer workers.” “Insufficient management support for health and safety functions” and “meeting the safety needs of an aging workforce” tied at 18 percent. Lack of funds to implement safety programs was last at eight percent.

Given the importance of PPE in ensuring worker safety, the survey examined the reasons for such high levels of non-compliance. Of those respondents who observed PPE non-compliance in the workplace, 69 percent said the primary cause was workers thinking that PPE wasn’t needed. This was followed by: uncomfortable; too hot; poor fit; not available near work task; and unattractive looking.


What measures have safety managers taken or plan to take in the near future to encourage greater PPE compliance? The top strategies were: improving existing education and training programs (61 percent) and increased monitoring of employees (48 percent). These were followed by: purchasing more comfortable PPE; tying compliance to individual performance evaluations; purchasing more stylish PPE; and developing incentive programs.

When it comes to compliance with PPE protocols, eye protection was found to be the “most challenging” PPE category, according to 24 percent of respondents. This was a disturbing, though not unexpected, finding considering that nearly three out of five workers who experienced eye injuries were found not to be wearing eye protection at the time of the accident or were wearing the wrong kind of eye protection for the job. Add to this the fact that that thousands of workers are blinded each year from work-related eye injuries that could have been prevented, and the magnitude of the problem becomes clear.

The next highest category for non-compliance was hearing protection (18 percent) – another disturbing finding since occupational noise-induced hearing loss is 100 percent preventable when proper measures are implemented. It was followed by respiratory protection/masks (17 percent), protective apparel (16 percent), gloves (14 percent) and head protection (four percent).

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