Survey reveals PPE manufacturers need to give more support to OHS managers

Thursday, 12 March, 2009

A recent independent survey commissioned by 3M has revealed that health and safety managers are not being provided with enough information and understanding about the different levels of PPE needed for different jobs in the construction industry.

The independent report was compiled following interviews with more than 200 workers and over 100 OHS managers. The aim was to find out exactly what they think of PPE in the construction industry — and reasons for it not being worn.

The survey highlights two major concerns for OHS managers when trying to make the correct selection of PPE: dealing with unknown/unexpected hazards (35%) and understanding what specifications different products meet (also 35%).

Nearly one in four stated the main issue they face is in knowing which level of PPE to use for which hazard — a potentially life-threatening lack of information. The task is compounded for OHS managers in the construction industry, as the majority have to deal with unexpected or unusual hazards on a daily basis due to the constantly changing nature of the workplace.

As it is down to OHS managers to educate workers about PPE, it is critical that they are given enough of the right information to understand what and how PPE should be worn for which hazards. If they are not clear on this, then the message cannot get through to the workers.

Most managers (87%) regarded training as the best method to ensure PPE is worn; however, the report revealed that only 56% of all workers receive regular training on which PPE to wear for which task and why. It was reported that 55% of workers are told what to wear by the manager at the start of the job but nearly a third of them just use what they think is best.

When it came to ensuring that PPE is worn across the different types of construction sites, the only sector of the respondents to report that they had 100% training and 100% enforcement was the London Olympics sites in the UK.

Vikki Randles, Market Development Manager for 3M Occupational Health and Environmental Safety Division in the UK, said: “The survey’s results confirm that training of the workforce is critical if they are to understand why and how they need to wear PPE. The fact that there are so many workers who are not getting basic information and training is a worrying aspect and one that needs to be addressed. However, it could be that there is a bigger issue at the heart of this that needs to be solved first.”

One of the areas the survey shows as needing focus is the negative general perception of health and safety. Many managers feel that the image of health and safety overall should be improved, with 48% in companies of 250 workers and over citing this as the main item that could be addressed in the battle to increase PPE compliance.

Randles added: “The strength of this response could suggest that managers in larger organisations are not getting the support that they want from higher levels in order to ensure that the wearing of PPE is enforced.

“A shift is needed to move away from the possible idea that the health and safety managers are just bureaucratic clipboard carriers if they are to be taken seriously in the workplace. Without this, the safety message and training is not likely to get through. However, this may be easier said than done — a safety culture needs to be embedded at the heart of a company to ensure that the right information is fed through. Health and safety managers need support and skills to engage with their workforce in order to successfully deliver the safety message.”

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