Survey says: PPE compliance remains ‘a top workplace concern’


For the second year in a row, a survey of safety professionals has found that non-compliance with personal protective equipment (PPE) protocols continues to be an issue in the workplace.

Eighty-seven percent of respondents said they had observed workers failing to wear PPE when they should have been, according to a survey of attendees at the 2007 National Safety Council (NSC) Congress, conducted by Kimberly-Clark Professional, last fall. Eighty-five percent of safety professionals answered yes to the same question in a survey undertaken by Kimberly-Clark Professional at the 2006 NSC Congress.

“Despite the undisputed need for PPE when undertaking hazardous tasks, people continue to risk bodily harm by failing to protect themselves,” said Randy Kates, general manager of the safety business for Kimberly-Clark Professional. “In this survey, we not only asked why people did not comply with PPE protocols but what could be done to alter these behaviors.”

The main reason 62 percent of respondents gave for noncompliance is that PPE was “uncomfortable.” This was followed by workers thinking PPE was not necessary for the task, was “too hot,” fit poorly, or was “unattractive looking.” So it’s no surprise that when asked what could be done to improve the PPE they were currently purchasing, 75 percent of survey respondents said they would make it more comfortable.

The survey also investigated the effect of environmental considerations on purchasing PPE and other personal safety products. Ninety-four percent of respondents said environmental considerations and reducing the impact on the environment were important to them. Sixty-four percent ranked these as “very important,” while 20 percent described them as “somewhat important.” Ten percent said environmental factors were “increasingly important now,” as compared to a few years ago.

The survey also asked respondents to choose between two types of industrial wiping products: a recycled cloth towel that is laundered and reused, releasing chemicals and metal contaminants in the wastewater of industrial laundries, or a disposable paper or paper/polymer wiping product that is discarded into a landfill after use. Fifty-six percent said they would choose the disposable wiper. Twenty-seven percent selected the laundered towel. Seventeen percent said they did not know which product they would pick.

Survey questionnaires were filled out by 197 safety professionals who reported being responsible for purchasing, selecting, or influencing the purchase or selection of, or compliance with, PPE. Respondents were from fields such as industrial manufacturing, construction, hazmat, emergency response, clean manufacturing, laboratories and science, health care, transportation, law enforcement, and government. For full survey results, visit