Why Do Workers Ignore Safety Rules?

By on February 26th, 2016

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U.S. workers are ignoring important safety procedures, which put them at risk for workplace injuries, according to the results of a survey on safety professionals conducted by Kimberly-Clark Professional.

The safety professionals were attending the 2008 National Safety Council Congress, and Kimberley-Clark Professional took the occasion to conduct its third annual survey on safety procedures compliance by American workers.

The results showed that 89 percent of the respondents reported having observed failure by workers to wear their personal protective equipment (PPE) at work, in areas where the equipment was required.

The general manager of Kimberly-Clark Professional’s safety business group said it was “disheartening” to find workers continuing to take unnecessary chances with their personal safety by not wearing protective equipment when performing hazardous tasks. This year’s finding was an unacceptable level of noncompliance with safety procedures in the workplace.

In fact, the level of noncompliance has been increasing. In the organization’s first survey in 2006, the rate of noncompliance reported by respondents was 85 percent; in 2007, this rate rose to 87 percent, and now it is 89 percent.

Not surprisingly, with the high noncompliance level, at least a third of respondents cited the failure to comply with safety procedures as the main workplace safety issue in their companies.

At the second rank was the issue of inadequate management support and/or inadequate resources to support health and safety functions (27 percent). This was followed by under-reporting of injuries and illnesses suffered in the workplace (14 percent), training complexities on a multilingual, multicultural workforce (7 percent) and rising compensation costs to workers (5 percent).

Is the worsening economy an underlying factor?

The worsening state of the economy may partly explain the continued non-compliance. More than a third (34 percent) of the respondents cited the economy for having reduced their firms’ ability to allocate budgets for safety resources and worker training programs. But 59 percent did not blame the economy.

Among the 34 percent who said the economy had affected their safety programs, further probing showed that:

  • 63 percent said their firms had less money for education and training.
  • 42 percent said personnel assigned to take care of safety training functions were reduced.
  • 33 percent said management had to prioritize business imperatives over safety concerns.

Injuries at the workplace cost American companies at least $50 billion a year.

Safety Tip: Make sure the PPE in your company is one that workers want to wear. Workers may want their PPE to be more comfortable, or even more stylish in design.

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