Personal Protective Equipment

PPE: Survey Shows Why Some Workers Won’t Use It

Why do some workers refuse to use the PPE that could save their health or life? A recent survey brings some surprising answers.

In yesterday’s Advisor, we reported two conflicting pieces of news from the PPE front of the workplace safety wars.

First, that on February 13, OSHA had put into effect its long- proposed requirement that employers, not their workers, must pay for virtually all required PPE. OSHA’s aim, obviously, was to remove one hindrance to use of PPE on the job.

Second, that a survey of safety professionals by safety products maker Kimberly-Clark (K-C), that showed that their efforts may do less good than hoped for. No less than 87 percent of survey respondents had personally witnessed incidents of workers simply refusing to use their PPE, no matter who paid for it.

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Fortunately, the survey included questions on why workers willingly deny themselves protection from possibly severe harm. They may surprise you … or maybe not.

Reason Number 1: (62 percent of respondents): “PPE is uncomfortable.”

Number 2: “PPE is not necessary for the work.”

Number 3: “It’s unattractive looking.”

Emotion and Interactivity

While K-C and others may be working on PPE that fits better and meets current fashion standards, it’s not here yet. And even when it is, it won’t do much for those workers who value their judgment over that of the government and safety engineers. For that reason, we asked our editors how such objections could be overcome. Their answer was surprising:

“Use the power of emotion.”

Their point was that modern marketing has found that emotion-laden messages, whether they be funny Super Bowl ads or tear-inducing movies, lower mental resistance to new ideas. The mind more readily adopts and retains them. They found this in building a program that uses this tactic to convince even reluctant workers to learn about and use PPE. The program, in interactive CD format, is called Total Training Resource: PPE.

As they take a self-directed and self-paced journey through 88 slides, trainees are asked to experience what it would be like to suffer the consequences of unsafe behavior. They’re asked to imagine the impact of an accident on their families. They’re asked to remember how their bare hands felt after contact with strong cleaning agents or how their hearing was muffled after exposure to loud sounds. And, in the case of vision hazards, the screen actually goes blurry and dark for a moment, to reinforce the point that vision is both fragile and priceless.

The message is enhanced by a second tool adopted from learning experts: interactivity.

Educators know that the more a trainee interacts with material, the more he or she is drawn into it. Each slide, therefore, includes some form of action. Full-color photos and copy move on the screen. Trainees drag and drop material in answer to questions. In an exercise on donning and doffing safety gear, trainees actually dress and remove the parts of a Level 3 protective suit, one at a time, to learn the correct order in doing so.

Try BLR’s Total Training Resource: PPE on CD at no cost or risk. Click for details.

What subjects are covered in these unique ways?

  • When PPE is necessary on their jobs

  • What type of PPE is needed for their particular work

  • How to use and adjust their PPE (including knowing signs that it is defective or needs maintenance)

  • What the limitations of their PPE are, and when to upgrade to more substantial equipment

  • What the expected life is of their PPE, how to maintain it during that life, and dispose of it when its usefulness is over

  • The specific types of PPE covered are those for:

  • Eye protection

  • Hearing protection

  • Hand and body protection

  • Foot protection

  • Respiratory safety

  • Head protection

  • Electrical safety

  • Also on the program CD is a full catalog of reproducible supplementary materials, from training sign-up sheet, to quiz, to student completion certificate, and for group use, a bonus 28-slide PowerPoint ® on PPE selection and use.

    Safety Daily Advisor has arranged for its subscribers to evaluate the program for up to 30 days at no cost or risk. Click here and we’ll set things up.