Survey Finds High Incidence of Noncompliance With Safety Equipment
Researchers from Kimberly-Clark Professional surveyed more than 130 attendees at the American Society of Safety Engineers' Safety 2010 conference in Baltimore. The study found that 98 percent of respondents indicated that they had observed workers not wearing safety equipment when they should have been. To make matters worse, 30 percent of health and safety professions said this had happened on numerous occasions. Given the findings, researchers said it's not surprising that employee compliance with PPE protocols was cited as the top workplace safety issue by all survey respondents.
"Increasingly high noncompliance with PPE protocols is an alarming trend and a serious threat to worker health and safety," said Gina Tsiropoulos, manufacturing segment marketing manager for Kimberly-Clark Professional. "Whether this is a result of economic conditions, a flawed approach to safety programs, younger workers who are more inclined to take greater risks, or some other reason, it's essential that workers wear PPE when it is required. PPE protects workers against injury, but it will not work if workers fail to use it and use it properly."
Tsiropoulos said the findings were strikingly similar to the results from surveys of safety professionals conducted at the National Safety Council Congress in 2008, 2007 and 2006.
Those studies also found high levels of noncompliance with PPE protocols -- 89 percent in 2008, 87 percent in 2007, and 85 percent in 2006.
Researchers said it's no wonder then that three-quarters of respondents chose workplace accidents and injuries in response to the question: "What is most likely to keep you up at night?" Potential exposure because of noncompliance with PPE protocols was second, at 13 percent, while fear of a global pandemic and its impact on the workforce was a distant third, cited by only 8 percent of respondents.
Eye protection challenges.
When it came to compliance with PPE use protocols, eye protection was found to be the "most challenging" category, according to 42 percent of respondents. Researchers said this was a disturbing, but not unexpected, finding considering that nearly three out of five workers who experienced eye injuries were not 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 facts that approximately 2,000 U.S. workers each day have a job-related eye injury that requires medical treatment and that thousands are blinded each year from work-related eye injuries that could have been prevented, and Tsiropoulos said the magnitude of the problem becomes clear.
The next highest category for noncompliance, according to the survey, was hearing protection. Tsiropoulos said this is equally disturbing since occupational noise-induced hearing loss is 100 percent preventable when proper preventive measures are implemented. Researchers found that this was followed by gloves and head protection.
Researchers said the reasons for PPE noncompliance varied, but the biggest complaint chosen by 40 percent of respondents was that it was uncomfortable. This was followed by health and safety professionals who said workers told them PPE was too hot, not available near the work task, a poor fit, and unattractive looking.
When asked what they had done or intended to do to improve compliance levels, health and safety professionals said their top choice was to improve existing education and training programs. This was followed by increased monitoring of employees, purchasing more comfortable PPE, tying compliance to individual performance evaluations, purchasing more stylish PPE, and developing incentive programs to encourage greater PPE compliance.
Future of PPE.
When health and safety professionals were asked about their visions for the future of PPE, fit, comfort and style took precedence. Forty-two percent of respondents said they would like to see PPE that automatically adjusts to fit different body types, hands, heads and faces. Next, respondents said they would like to see PPE with customizable style and design options, so that workers could select gear based on their own individual tastes and safety requirements.This was followed by PPE designed with integrated climate-control features, providing cooling or warmth as needed. When asked if customizable or individualized style and design options would help increase PPE compliance, 87 percent of respondents said that it would.
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September 27, 2010
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