- Small and medium-sized enterprises frequently utilize PPE and respirators as a control for protecting workers from airborne hazards. Yet little is known about why, leading to questions about what forces might be driving the decision to adopt such poor controls for reducing airborne hazards.
- This article explores forces that may influence employers’ decision-making about protecting workers and examines economic theories that may help explain employers’ choices. Understanding these forces can inform efforts to help these enterprises choose better protection controls for workers.
- Through this study, qualitative data were collected from semi-structured interviews of small and medium-sized enterprises in the concrete trades exposed to a known airborne hazard. The interviews provided insight into the forces that employers experience in their decision-making.
Across the U.S., workers use many chemicals during their workday. Not all, but many chemicals are harmful if inhaled. For small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the owner or a designated representative is responsible for the decisions on how to protect employees. Various options exist for worker protection from hazards, including elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls and PPE. SMEs frequently utilize PPE and respirators as a common form of worker protection as a control for airborne hazards. Yet little is known about why these enterprises choose this type of protection, leading to question what forces might be driving the decision to adopt such poor controls for reducing airborne hazards.
DiMaggio and Powell’s theory on isomorphism identifies the external forces that may influence employers’ decision-making. Organizational isomorphism includes three forces influencing organizations to act similarly to one another: coercive, mimetic and normative. Further, safety climate and organizational culture may explain internal forces such as safety culture on decisions and the intrinsic value of workers and the employer’s need to protect them. Finally, economic theories of cost may explain why SMEs choose the method of protection. Knowing whether any or a combination of these forces influences health protection decisions made by employers, regulators, health associations, or safety and health professionals will inform targeting efforts to assist SMEs in choosing better protection controls for workers.