PPE: WHY WORKERS WILL NOT WEAR IT
COLUMBIA SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY
This paper gives the excuses that a worker gives for not wearing the required personal protective equipment (PPE). The employer is forced to provide PPE to the worker at a very large cost and employees are found not wearing PPE every day for reasons that do not make sense. Safety professionals should continue to encourage, educate, and enforce the use of personal protective equipment. Encouraging workers to wear the required PPE can be an effective way to coerce a worker to wear the PPE. Educating a worker on what types of injuries can happen if PPE is not worn and worn properly. Enforcement of PPE can also be an effective way to get the worker to wear the PPE. If a person’s job depends on the worker wearing the PPE, the worker may be more apt to wear the PPE and not come up with an excuse to not wear the PPE. Ensuring the workers wear the PPE is a must for any safety professional in order to keep the employees safe and also to be able to keep a job.
PPE: Why Workers Will Not 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 the focus will be on the top five. None of the excuses that workers give are valid enough to put a life at risk. It seems that to the workers who do not wear their personal protective equipment the excuses are worth the risk. 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 author explains 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. The author states around 34% of workers claim that they just forgot to put on the required PPE (Hosier, 2009). The author explains that 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.
PPE: My Argument for the Use of PPE
Continually allowing workers to get away with not wearing the required PPE for the job will continue to put the workers at risk to be injured while on the job. When there is a known hazard that the employer cannot mitigate through administrative or mechanical controls, the employer must provide PPE for the employee and ensure the PPE is worn and worn properly to protect the worker from the known hazard. The author explains that nearly three out of five workers who experienced eye injuries were found not to be wearing eye protection at the time of the accident or were wearing the wrong kind of eye protection for the job (Smith, 2010). An eye injury that can be prevented will not only scar a worker physically, but the mental scar can also be everlasting. The psychological effects of being injured can sometimes last longer than the physical effects of an on-the-job injury.
The author explains that the psychological effects of a physical injury can manifest in anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other types of mental stress injuries (Pitt, 2019). A worker who has a physical injury at work is more likely to have psychological disorders than a worker who has not been injured at work. A study published in the BMC Public Health journal examined the comorbidity of work injuries and depression and found that workers who experienced a workplace injury are 2.18 times more likely to be depressed than those who did not (Pitt, 2019). A study by Psychological Medicine journal found that 18.1 percent of 248 injured worker participants were diagnosed with depression during the year following their injuries (Pitt, 2019). Physical injuries and psychological disorders cause by physical injuries are the most important reasons for workers to wear the required PPE while performing work, but another very important reason to wear PPE is costs incurred by the employer.
Workplace injuries can be very costly to an employer, so preventing workplace injuries should be very important to the leadership and safety professionals of the company. According to EHS Today, workplace injuries and accidents that cause employees to miss six or more days of work cost United States employers nearly $62 billion per year (Smith, 2016). The cost of injuries to workers can be prevented most of the time by ensuring the employee wears the required PPE to perform the job. The $62 billion in costs only includes injuries that cause the employee to miss six or more days of work, which is only a portion of the worker injuries each year, so the actual costs to employers will be much higher if all worker injuries were included. Educating the employee on the cost of an injury to the employer and the cost of an injury to the employee can also help the employee understand the importance of wearing the required PPE for the job.
The excuses that are given by workers when confronted by leadership and safety professionals are not really a good reason for not wearing the required PPE. The consequences for not wearing the PPE far outweigh the reasons given for not wearing. Workers can be severely injured or even killed by not wearing the required PPE, but wearing the required PPE can save a life. Workers should care enough for themselves and their loved ones to do their best to make it home each day safely. A severe injury can completely change a person’s life and potentially put the family in a financial bind. A severely injured worker may never be able to work again, which will cause the worker to be put on disability and only be able to draw a small amount of money instead of being able to get promotions and pay increases, which can be a substantial amount of money throughout a lifetime. Workers should hold their co-workers accountable remind them of the hazards that they encounter on a daily basis in order to keep them safe. Using PPE and not giving a lame excuse for not wearing PPE can keep a worker from getting injured and allow the worker to go home every day to their family.
Collins, D. 2013.Why OSHA was created, safetyrisk.net. Retrieved from: https://safetyrisk.net/osha-created/
Hosier, F. 2009. Best responses to 5 biggest PPE excuses, safetynewsalert. Retrieved from: http://www.safetynewsalert.com/fighting-the-ppe-battle-why-wont-workers-use-it/
Pitt, Larry, 2019. Psychological effects of work injuries, lawyers.com. Retrieved from: https://blogs.lawyers.com/attorney/workers-compensation/psychological-effects-of-work-injuries-54542/
Smith, S. 2016. U.S. companies pay $62 billion per year for workplace injuries, ehstoday.com. Retrieved from: https://www.ehstoday.com/companies-injuries
Smith, S. 2010. Workers are risking injury by not wearing safety equipment, ehstoday.com. Retrieved from: https://www.ehstoday.com/ppe/hand-protection/workers-risking-injury-safety-equipment-6332
Warren, C. n.d. Workplace safety stories: this hard hat saved my life, mscdirect. Retrieved from: https://www.mscdirect.com/betterMRO/safety/workplace-safety-stories-hard-hat-saved-my-life