Survey finds reasons employees don’t wear PPE

Date Posted: 12/05/2022
Offering PPE work gloves

A survey of safety professionals found that the most common excuse given by employees for not wearing required personal protective equipment (PPE) was that they simply didn’t feel like wearing it.

The survey, conducted by J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc., also identified challenges with sizing, supply chain issues, and getting employees to wear PPE during hot days. But overall, the most common challenge was getting employees to wear PPE in the first place.

Respondents were asked to select the reasons for employee failure to wear PPE. They could choose multiple responses, so the results total more than 100%. Top reasons included:

  • Just didn’t want to wear it: 72%
  • Didn’t think it was necessary: 50%
  • Made the job more difficult: 50%

Encourage the right choice

The top two responses suggest that employees make a conscious decision not to wear PPE. Getting them to think about their reasons for that choice and the potential consequences could help encourage the correct choice.

If employees refuse to wear PPE, they’re essentially choosing to accept the risk of injury. However, employees don’t have the authority to make that choice. Employers require PPE not only because it prevents injuries, but because federal regulations require employers to provide PPE and enforce its use.

At home, individuals may choose to accept the risks of certain behaviors, like mowing the lawn without hearing protection. At work, employees might think they’re smart enough to avoid injury, or think the odds of getting hurt are low and the risk is worth the benefit of not wearing PPE.

To encourage the right choice, employers might try one of the following approaches:

Impacts on others: Point out that an injury has consequences for the employee, the employee’s family, the company, and even the employee’s coworkers. By choosing to accept the risk of personal injury, they’re imposing the consequences on others. This is one reason employees don’t have the authority to make that choice. Remind them that every worker who suffered a life-changing injury also decided to accept the risk.

Risk and reward: Acknowledge that the injury risk may be low, and that working carefully further reduces risk. Then, describe the potential injuries that could occur (like loss of an eye) and ask them to consider the impacts of those life-changing injuries. Finally, ask if the risk is worth whatever benefit they get from not wearing PPE. They may realize that they’re taking a big risk for a minimal reward.

What’s the benefit: Ask what benefit they get by not wearing PPE. Reasons might include comfort, fit, heat, loss of dexterity, or limited vision. Employers can usually offer something to mitigate or reduce those problems.

Although employees probably won’t admit it, some might refuse to wear PPE out of a desire for control. They may have thought, “I’m a responsible adult and can work without injury, so I don’t need to wear PPE.” Remind them that they don’t have authority to choose to accept the risk of injury and the consequences, and further, their families (as well as their employer) don’t want them to take that risk or pay that price.

How Safety Management Suite Can Help

Employers must train employees who use PPE, but should also explain how it protects them and the consequences of not wearing it (or wearing it incorrectly). The Training area of the J. J. Keller® SAFETY MANAGEMENT SUITE can help, with courses on many topics that include online courses, classroom materials, and many other assets.

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