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PPE use in construction is up but could improve, says ISEA

Results from a new survey of construction safety leaders show that safety equipment use and awareness in heavy construction continue to rise, even though many workers in dangerous jobs remain under-protected.

The new findings come from the third study sponsored by the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) to track safety equipment use and awareness levels. Strategic Marketing Associates (SMA), a Stow, Ohio-based research firm that specializes in the construction industry, conducted the studies through a combination of questionnaires and telephone interviews involving more than 200 safety leaders in both the private and public sectors.

Responses indicated that between 2001 and 2004, nine of 10 personal protective equipment (PPE) types — hard hats, safety shoes/boots, protective eyewear, gloves, fall protection, hearing protection, respirators, protective coveralls and face shields — showed increases in the percentages of workers in heavy construction who are wearing them when needed. According to the study, the safety vest was the only type of PPE that declined in use over that three-year period.

Hard hats, safety vests and safety shoes/boots continue to be the most commonly used types of PPE, with more than two-thirds of construction workers wearing them when needed, while face shields, protective coveralls and respirators are regularly worn when needed by the smallest percentages — about 45 percent each.

As in previous years, the 2004 survey asked respondents to indicate the primary reasons why construction workers do not use PPE more regularly. For the third time, the main reason cited by the safety leaders is because “employers do not require or enforce use.” In 2004 it was the number one or number two reason given for eight of the 10 PPE types.

“Equipment not available or not provided” also was shown to be a significant factor for why PPE is not used more regularly, emerging as the number one reason for three of the PPE types studied.

“We are encouraged by the upward trend in PPE use in heavy construction, but we are concerned that the level of use is still below what it should be,” said ISEA President Dan Shipp. Shipp noted that with more than six million Americans employed in dangerous construction jobs there still are hundreds of thousands of under-protected workers.

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