3 biggest challenges to wearing PPE

By Larry StewartDecember 14, 2022

It’s unlikely that most construction workers who don’t wear personal protective equipment have little regard for their own safety. In fact the 2022 PPE Pain Points Study from J.J. Keller surveyed safety managers in transportation, manufacturing and construction to find out why employees don’t wear PPE.

Graphic: J.J. Keller Center for Market Insights

More than 90% of respondents to the PPE study said they have issues with employees following proper PPE protocols.

When asked why workers didn’t wear PPE, the largest percentage of safety professionals admitted they simply didn’t want to wear it. Now the survey allowed respondents to select all the answers that applied to their workforce, so they selected underlying reasons in addition to the obvious fact that most workers didn’t want to wear something that they decided not to wear.

PPE requires training

Importantly, half of safety pros said workers didn’t think PPE was necessary for what they were doing, and half said PPE made the job more difficult. The next most-common response (at 21%) said they didn’t know PPE was required.

These top results underscore the essential training that accompanies workplace requirements for use of PPE. And the fact that fall protection, respiratory protection and eye and face PPE are three of the 10 most-cited OSHA violations should add financial motivation for firms to repeat training until compliance improves.

J.J. Keller’s PPE Pain Points Study seems to suggest that normalizing personal safety in the context of production-oriented workplaces demands more than showing people how to wear PPE. It requires making sure people know when and where PPE is required at all points in their changing work processes, where to find PPE and how to make sure it fits properly.

Fit, heat and supply

Fourteen percent of survey respondents said PPE didn’t get worn because it didn’t fit. And as a supplier of PPE, J.J. Keller’s report on the study focused on three factors underlying noncompliance with policies:

  1. lack of adequate sizes
  2. heat stress
  3. supply chain disruptions

More than a third (34%) of respondents said they had trouble buying PPE in the sizes they need for their company over the past year. And more than a third (35%) had trouble finding PPE to fit women.

Graphic: J.J. Keller Center for Market Insights

OSHA makes clear that PPE used by women should be based on female body measurement data, and advises employers who are required to purchase PPE to inventory items in sizes suitable for women.

A separate J. J. Keller study on heat stress conducted last summer found that 93% of respondents’ work environments require a level of PPE that could increase the risks of heat exposure.

More than 70% of safety pros have waited for PPE through supply-chain delays in the past year.

Strategies for improving worker safety with personal protective equipment range from gaming today’s sluggish supply chain to changing company culture to understand that priorities start with PPE.

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