PPE non-compliance costs billions

We can’t underestimate how effective the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is to prevent injuries or at least reduce the severity in the event of an accident. Many companies are still not fully complying though. As well as the effects to the injured employee, non-compliance also has financial effects for the business, including:

  • Lack of productivity due to injured or absent workers
  • Replacing PPE
  • Injury claims

Employers’ legal duties

It is the responsibility of the employer to provide suitable PPE for employees under the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 2002. Businesses need to write their own PPE policies and decide what employees must wear based on risk assessments and analysis of previous accidents. It can be incredibly frustrating to witness workers wandering around without the equipment if you have gone to the trouble of working out what is needed and investing in it. While it is not possible to eliminate every potential hazard, employers still carry the ultimate legal responsibility for employee safety.

The cost of non-compliance

The cost of non-compliance can be steep, in fact, it cost businesses £79bn last year. A shocking 5% of businesses in high risk occupations lost more than £1m due to PPE non-compliance. 30% of thme lost £250k or more. Yet it is estimated that 29% of injuries which resulted in time off work could have been prevented by the effective use of PPE.

Reasons for non-compliance

There are many reasons for worker non-compliance when it comes to PPE but they can be divided into two types: unintentional and deliberate.

Often there is a serious lack of understanding of how the equipment actually works. There was a case where an employee cut a hole in his respirator so that he could smoke a cigarette. He then continued to wear it throughout his shift, not realising he had completely compromised the effectiveness of the respirator.

Then there is deliberate non-compliance where workers find their PPE uncomfortable and impractical. This often results in them removing it during their shift or to communicate with colleagues. A hazard often isn’t taken seriously if it can’t be seen.

The main reasons for workers deliberately failing to use the correct PPE include:

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

Causes of accidents

Lifting and handling, industrial machinery and slips and falls are some of the most common accidents in the workplace. Effective use of PPE could reduce the severity of many of these accidents. One of the major factors when it comes to accidents is human error. A Cortexica survey found that 84% of businesses rely on a manual checking system for the proper use of PPE. By using an AI driven system to monitor the correct usage of PPE, this could be greatly improved.

With correct and effective use of PPE so essential for workers’ safety, it is surprising that so many companies continue to use a manual checking system. The survey showed that this is likely to change in the near future though. 78% of those surveyed said they believed an AI driven system would help highlight PPE non-compliance in real time. 64% of health and safety professionals stated that they intend to invest in machine vision and AI systems in the next five years.

Whether PPE non-compliance is as a result of bravado, defiance or just pure laziness, this can usually be solved. A good starting point is to train staff and educate them on the importance of wearing their equipment correctly when required. When looking at purchasing more comfortable and stylish PPE, employers can ask for staff input. Individual performance reviews can also be linked to PPE compliance.

Disclaimer: The information provided through Legislation Watch is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. Legislation Watch is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. You should seek independent advice about any legal matter.

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