Workers refuse to wear PPE because of lack of training, lack of availability, its appearance or because it is uncomfortable to wear. Even when mandated by OSHA, there are high levels of non-compliance with personal protective equipment (PPE) in workplaces. When workers fail to use personal protective equipment, they put both themselves and their fellow workers at risk for injuries.
Reasons Workers Shun PPE
According to a survey conducted by Kimberly-Clark Professional, a high percentage of workers who experience injuries at work were not wearing OSHA mandated PPE. This is despite increased regulations and awareness of the need for PPE in some occupations. Participants in the survey gave the following reasons why they did not comply with wearing their required PPE because it:
- Was too uncomfortable or ill-fitting
- Made it difficult to perform their work
- Was not available near their work area
- Looked unattractive
Many employees who choose to forego PPE are experienced in their work. Studies suggest that more experienced workers often believe they do not need to wear protective gear. All it takes is one incident to change a worker’s life forever and force them to make a claim for workers compensation.
Employers Must Educate Workers and Encourage Compliance
Safety managers should observe and monitor the use of PPE. When non-compliance issues are found, it is their responsibility to understand why workers are not using the required PPE.
To promote compliance with wearing OSHA-mandated equipment, employers are expected to educate workers in safety procedures, encourage PPE use and monitor compliance. Employers should listen to the concerns of their employees when it comes to PPE that is uncomfortable or ill-fitting. They should ensure that all employees are properly fitted for their equipment, including safety glasses, helmets, apparel, and other required PPE.
Implementing or improving existing education and training programs to educate workers on the importance of using PPE can help change behaviors with non-compliance. When workers are more aware of the risks of not using PPE on the job, they may become more compliant.
Requiring workers to wear unsightly or unfashionable equipment can cause non-compliance. Involving workers in the selection of required PPE can help encourage compliance. This could involve allowing workers to try out different types of equipment or allowing different options to choose from that meet safety requirements without causing discomfort.