Unprotected Eyes

The need for safety equipment when performing hazardous tasks is undisputed. Yet workers continue to take risks by failing to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when it is needed.

In a 2012 Kimberly-Clark Professional survey, 82 percent of safety professionals said they had observed workers in their organizations failing to wear required PPE during the past year. Respondents also cited compliance as the top workplace safety issue in their facilities – further underscoring the significance of these findings.

OSHA requires employers to provide eye and face protection to guard against chemical, environmental, radiological, or mechanical irritants or hazards. Yet, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that nearly 3 out of 5 injured workers were not wearing eye protection at the time of their accident or were wearing the wrong kind of eye protection for the job. Increased compliance is crucial to creating workplaces that are healthy, safe, and productive.

Given the importance of safety equipment in protecting employees, why does workplace compliance continue to be an issue? More than half the safety professionals surveyed attributed noncompliance to workers thinking that safety equipment was not needed. With increased regulations and heightened awareness, it’s disturbing that workers are unaware of the need to protect themselves.

The other reasons for noncompliance cited by respondents were:

  • Uncomfortable
  • Too hot
  • Blamed for decreased productivity or an inability to perform tasks
  • Unavailable near the work task
  • Ill-fitting
  • Unattractive looking

What can be done to improve compliance with PPE protocols? More than 60 percent of respondents said they planned to improve existing training programs this year, an effort that appears to be making a difference for respondents – both in terms of reducing injuries and boosting productivity.