PPE: WHY WORKERS WON’T WEAR IT
COLUMBIA SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY
PPE: Why Workers Won’t Wear It
Workers all across the United States perform jobs that have many hazards, but on a daily basis do not wear required personal protective equipment. Personal protective equipment can prevent workers from injuries. Personal protective equipment can be a hassle to put on sometimes and is cumbersome to wear on a daily basis. The risk of not wearing personal protective equipment far outweighs the reward of feeling annoyed by wearing personal protective equipment. Dave Fenton was a construction worker that was struck in the head by an 80 pound aluminum joist that fell from nine floors up. The joist broke his neck and shoulder and punctured his lung, but a hard hat deflected the weight of the joist from the center of his head saving his life (MSC, n.d.). There are many examples of personal protective equipment saving workers lives, but still some workers refuse to wear their personal protective equipment. There are many excuses that workers use as to why they are not wearing their personal protective equipment when approached by leadership and safety professionals, but I will focus on the top five. In my opinion none of the excuses are valid enough to put your life at risk. It seems that to the workers who do not wear their personal protective equipment the excuses are worth the risk. I believe the risk of injury is too high for workers to not wear the required PPE. Safety professionals should continue to encourage, educate, and enforce the use of personal protective equipment.
The Literature Review
The cons of wearing personal protective equipment sometimes seem warranted to the worker because it may keep them from performing their job as efficiently as without the personal protective equipment. The in depth look at each one of the top five excuses workers do not wear personal protective equipment will help get a better understanding of the mindset of a worker who does not wear personal protective equipment when needed.
A Brief History
Safety was not at the forefront of employers prior to 1970 when OSHA was formed to protect workers from hazards at work. OSHA was created because in the two years prior to 1970, 14,000 workers died each year form workplace hazards, and another 2 million were disabled or harmed (Safetyrisk, 2013). OSHA was a much needed organization that was wanted by the worker to ensure employees were provided a workplace free of known hazards. OSHA now performs inspections on facilities and hands out monetary fines to employers when hazards are found on those installations. Workers not wearing personal protective equipment is something that an employer can be fined for, yet employees still choose not to wear personal protective equipment. OSHA can fine the employer for each employee that they catch not wearing personal protective equipment.
The Argument for PPE
PPE is the last line of defense that an employee has against a workplace hazard and using the required PPE can be a difference in life or death. Showing an employee the results of not wearing required PPE can help the employee understand why the PPE is required and may encourage the employee to wear the required PPE when needed. If an employee is grinding without eye protection, the employee can debris in the eyes causing significant damage to the sight of the employee. Safety glasses can protect the employee from flying debris, potentially saving the employee’s eyesight. An employee that works with sheet metal has the risk of cutting their hands. Cut-resistant gloves can save the employee’s hands and fingers from being cut allowing the employee to continue to work with their hands. Ear plugs can prevent hearing loss due to noise hazards. There are many examples of how personal protective equipment can prevent on-the-job injuries.
The Argument against PPE
There are many excuses, but the five excuses that are given most by workers are the way it fits, they did not know it was required, they did not have the time to put it on, they do not believe they will get in an accident, and they claim to forget to put PPE on (Hosier, 2009). The fit of certain types of PPE can hinder the employee from doing their job efficiently, which can deter an employee from wearing required PPE. Many workers claim to not know that the PPE is required, which can sometimes be true because the company failed to train the employee on the PPE required, how to get required PPE, and how to wear PPE correctly. Some PPE takes substantial amounts of time to put on, which causes the employee trouble in getting their required production done for the day, so they choose not to wear the required PPE. Many employees believe or think that an accident will never happen to them so they choose not to wear required PPE. Around 34% of workers claim that they just forgot to put on the required PPE (Hosier, 2009). Forgetting to put on required PPE does happen to employees, but the company must decide how often it is acceptable for an employee to forget to wear required PPE (Hosier, 2009). These reasons deter workers from wearing the required PPE every day in the workforce.
While many workers are against wearing PPE, the employer ultimately has the power to enforce the use of PPE. The reason that the employer has the power to enforce is because OSHA says that the employer will provide a workplace free of known hazards and PPE is the only thing that can protect the employee from the known hazard. The employer would be on the hook to be fined or even shut down if they did not provide the PPE to protect the employees from the know hazards. These reasons provided are the reasons safety professionals should continue to encourage, educate, and enforce the use of personal protective equipment. The enforcement of required PPE will keep employees safe and keep the employers safe from OSHA.
(MSC, n.d.) Retrieved from: https://www.mscdirect.com/betterMRO/safety/workplace-safety-stories-hard-hat-saved-my-life
(Safetyrisk, 2013). Retrieved from: https://safetyrisk.net/osha-created/
(Hosier, 2009). Retrieved from: http://www.safetynewsalert.com/fighting-the-ppe-battle-why-wont-workers-use-it/