Survey: The top excuses workers use for not wearing their PPE

by on November 13, 2012 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

Why don’t workers use required PPE and risk needlessly injuring themselves?

It turns out that workers justify non-compliance in predictable ways to themselves and excuse themselves from wearing PPE, even when it’s required.

That’s according to a Kimberly-Clark Professional survey of 110 safety professionals. Here are the leading reasons – or excuses if you prefer – workers tell themselves:

‘I didn’t think I needed it’
This is the “dog ate my homework” of reasons: More than half of safety directors said this was the most common excuse workers used.

Suggestion: Ask why they didn’t know, and don’t accept the first answer. Was the required PPE use covered during training? Did the person forget? Did the person not understand in the first place? Is it just a convenient excuse?

Asking a few well-placed questions and not allowing a quick answer will get the person thinking about doing it next time – especially if you follow up with a quick personal refresher. In some cases, you may want to do refresher training for an entire crew. That sets a tone that you will address PPE non-compliance.

‘It’s too uncomfortable’
The next two common excuses were “It’s too uncomfortable” or “It’s too hot.” Sometimes that’s a legitimate complaint, and something you can’t do much about.

Suggestions: But if you give workers a choice in selecting PPE (from an approved list), they’re more likely to take ownership of wearing it and tolerate the discomfort of it.

So offer a choice when possible. Also, make sure that PPE fits properly – many times discomfort comes from using PPE that doesn’t fit. Finally, make sure they’re using their own PPE and haven’t borrowed it as a “temporary” solution. Borrowed gear often doesn’t fit.

Finally, make sure the PPE is adjusted properly. PPE may have come out of adjustment – or the worker didn’t know how to adjust it properly.

‘It slows me down’
Workers also say, “It makes tasks too difficult” or “keeps me from keeping up.”

Fix: You can address this from a PPE perspective, i.e., see if the PPE fits (gloves aren’t too big or prevents reaching into a tight space), and is appropriate for the work (a wrist restraint does slow her down, but you can adjust a machine guard instead).

Or you can approach it from a production standpoint: Observe the work with the worker using PPE and see if he’s wasting energy or needs to improve skills.

‘It wasn’t nearby’
Workers sometimes leave their workstation or normal work area to do a task elsewhere. They may not have the required PPE and it’s too much bother to go get it.

Fix: Address this by having extra PPE near the workstations – such as eye protection near a grinding wheel. Watch out though, that workers don’t walk off with the common PPE.

Suggestion: Assign someone near that workstation to check to make sure the common PPE is still there during the shift. Include common PPE in a pre- and post-shift inspection checklists.

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