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The five top excuses employees give for not wearing their PPE

by , 12 June 2015
A question we always get on our Health and Safety Club site is 'How do I get all my employees to wear their safety gear all the time?'

It's one of the top challenges Health and Safety Managers face year after year.

So we did a bit of digging, and asked your peers about their experiences to find out the top reasons workers give for not wearing PPE.

And we also asked the health and safety managers how they deal with the problem.

Here are the results...

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Top five excuses employees give for not wearing their PPE

1. Fit/comfort
'It doesn't fit right,' or 'it's uncomfortable' are the reasons 30% of Safety Managers are given when they ask workers why they aren't wearing their PPE.

Solution: Involve your employees in the choice of PPE. Ask what the comfort and fit issues are with their safety gear. Work with a few select employees to order several different trial samples of regulatory-compliant gear. Then have these employees test it. If there isn't a consensus, note whether people with certain physical characteristics prefer certain types. You may have to order more than one type to satisfy your workers. And keep them safe!

2. Blaming others
Some employees will try to put the blame for their lack of PPE on someone else – many times their Supervisors or Health and Safety Trainers. 'I didn't know I needed PPE' was the top reason heard by 10% of Safety Managers.

Solution: When PPE training is given, make sure your employees sign a paper stating that they've had training and understand consequences of not wearing their PPE. To make this policy work, your Supervisors will have to follow up with disciplinary action when workers don't wear their PPE.

3. Time factor
'I didn't have time,' or 'it takes too much time' are the main reasons 18% of Safety Managers hear as excuses from workers without PPE.

The first step to solve this problem: Ask workers why and listen carefully to their answers. You may have a conflict between production and safety. In that case, ask Production Supervisors to emphasise that work doesn't start until PPE is on.
You may also find out these workers weren't properly trained about using PPE. Another possibility is that workers are rushing to get to their stations on time because they're late. Disciplinary measures may be necessary in those cases.

And that's not all…

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Two top excuses employees give for not wearing their PPE

4. They're invincible
'I won't get in an accident' is heard most often by 8% of Managers. Oddly enough, this attitude is by two very different groups. Young workers think they're invincible - that nothing bad will ever happen to them. If they haven't had exposure to a serious injury, they might think 'that only happens to other people.' Workers with more experience who have gone their entire career without a serious workplace injury say 'I've always done it this way and haven't been hurt so far.'

Solution: Show them a real life case study. Invite someone who got seriously injured from a workplace accident to speak to all your employees. Ask the person to explain in detail how the injury has made his life difficult - how everyday activities are now much more difficult for him.

Another tactic: Tell employees to put an arm behind their back. Now, ask them to perform a simple task such as tying their shoes.

5. Memory lapse
The rest, 34%, say 'I just forgot.' Check first if fit, comfort or time is a factor before accepting this excuse.

Solution: This is where a strong safety policy comes into play. Each workplace has to decide how often it's acceptable for someone to 'just forget' and what will happen to the employee each time. Steady and general discipline will send a message to others to always wear their PPE.

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The five top excuses employees give for not wearing their PPE
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