Personal protective equipment (PPE) use in the heavy construction industry is on the rise, but hundreds of thousands of workers in dangerous jobs are still unprotected, according to results of a new survey of safety leaders commissioned by the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA).

The survey, conducted by Strategic Marketing Associates (SMA), an Ohio-based research firm specializing in the construction industry, covered 213 safety leaders from the private and public sectors. The latest findings come one year after ISEA commissioned the first quantitative research to assess PPE use in the heavy construction industry, with the 2001 findings serving as benchmarks to analyze future trends.

Responses to this year's survey indicated that six of the ten PPE types investigated - hardhats, protective eyewear, hearing protection, protective coveralls, face shields and safety footwear - showed increases in the percentages of workers who are wearing them when needed. Among the other four types, respiratory protection use was virtually unchanged, while use of safety vests, gloves and fall protection decreased.

Hardhats, high-visibility apparel (safety vests) and safety shoes or boots continue to be the most regularly used PPE in this industry, with about 75 percent of workers wearing them when needed. Face shields, air-purifying or air-supplied respirators, and protective coveralls are regularly worn by the smallest number of workers - about four in ten - when needed.

Face shields, the least regularly worn PPE of those investigated, showed a significant increase in use, moving from 34 percent in 2001 to 39 percent this year. Safety glasses/goggles, up 13 percent, and safety footwear, up seven percent, also showed substantial increases in regular use.

Respondents were asked to indicate the primary reasons why construction workers do not use PPE more regularly. For the second year in a row, the safety leaders overwhelmingly cited the main reason as being that employers do not require or enforce use. In the 2002 survey, it was the number one reason given for six of the ten PPE types studied, and the number two reason for the remaining types. Other factors cited frequently were lack of style/comfort and hampers job performance.