Is PPE Compliance A Challenge In Your Facility?

A recent survey conducted by Kimberly-Clark Professional found that 89% of safety professionals polled have observed workers failing to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when they should have been. This is the third consecutive year that the Kimberly-Clark survey has revealed a high rate of PPE noncompliance. In 2007, 87% of respondents said they had observed PPE noncompliance in the workplace, while 85% answered yes to this question in 2006.

“We find it disheartening that people continue to put themselves at risk by failing to wear PPE when undertaking hazardous tasks,” said Randy Kates, general manager of the safety business for Kimberly-Clark Professional. “Despite the importance of PPE, there is still an unacceptably high rate of noncompliance in the workplace.”

Additionally, when asked to name the top workplace safety issue in their facilities one-third of respondents cited “worker compliance with safety protocols.” Next was “insufficient management support and/or resources for health and safety functions” (27%). Under-reporting of workplace injuries and illnesses was third (14%), followed by training a multilingual, multicultural workforce (7%) and escalating worker compensation costs (5%).

One potential explanation for continuing problems with compliance could be the economy. Thirty-four percent of respondents said the economy had affected worker safety training programs or resources. Fifty-nine percent said it had not. Of those who said the economy had impacted safety training or resources, the survey found that:

  • 63% said it had led to less money for education and training.
  • 42% said it had resulted in reduced personnel to handle safety training tasks.
  • 33% said the faltering economy had led to business concerns taking precedence over safety concerns.

This year’s survey also polled safety professionals about the steps they have taken or intend to take to encourage greater PPE compliance. The top response was “improving existing education and training programs,” followed by “purchasing more comfortable PPE.” Increased monitoring of employees was third, followed by tying compliance to individual performance evaluations and purchasing more stylish PPE.

“Work-related injuries in the U.S. cost more than $50 billion a year(1),” said Kates. “Our research has shown that comfort and style are major drivers for compliance with PPE protocols. In the current economic climate it is more important than ever to invest in PPE that workers will want to wear.”

Survey Methodology
The survey was undertaken at the 2008 National Safety Council (NSC) Congress in Anaheim, CA, on September 23, 2008. The survey questionnaires were filled out by 153 safety professionals who reported being responsible for purchasing, selecting or influencing the purchase or selection of, or compliance with, PPE. The respondents included safety directors and managers, industrial hygienists, environmental managers, and purchasing professionals. Full survey results can be accessed on the Kimberly-Clark Professional Web site.

(1) Source: Liberty Mutual


  1. You do raise a good point about people not bothering to wear PPE, however, in many situations I have seen PPE being worn with very questionable effectiveness.

    Not to long ago I was wearing a hard hat on a surveying course, during the whole course we didn’t see a single rock in the cliff face move, but no less than 3 people got hit in the face by hard hats being blown around, using that as an example (obviously limited and not particularly conclusive), we would have been safer without the PPE.

    People aren’t as likely to follow HSE guidelines if they can’t see a reason for them in the first place, and of course some people just don’t care. After all, think of all the people who smoke regardless of the damage it causes.

    My point is, in my opinion the best way to increase safety is to improve the image of it in the first place. Make people understand the risks before asking them to wear the gear.

    I find this particularly evident with arc flash incidents; in so many cases people havent even been aware of the risks since they weren’t working on the electrified equipment, or just happened to be near the incident.

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