There are so many potential hazards at a construction site, and personal protective equipment (PPE) is one of the workers’ primary lines of defense. Each item is designed to minimize exposure to certain risks of injury or illness, as well as the damage caused by those hazards in the event of a mishap.
Every individual construction site and job duty should be evaluated for specific and unique dangers, and appropriate personal protective equipment required. Some common classes of hazards at construction sites with risks that can be mitigated with appropriated PPE include electrical, fall, chemical, harmful dust, struck-by, penetration, caught-in and caught-between, rollover, and heat.
It’s important that workers use PPE that is properly fitted. Each piece should stay on securely without causing discomfort or limited mobility; clothing and other items should not be loose, as this creates dangers for tripping, getting caught in moving parts, etc.
Below is a quick look at some basic personal protective equipment.
PPE for Construction Crews
- Hard hats – These are essential at most construction sites. They protect against head injuries related to swinging or falling objects, striking the head against something, or accidental head contact with an electrical hazard. Hard hats should be inspected for dents, cracks, and other damage prior to each use; damaged ones should never be worn.
- Foot protection – This often refers to steel-toe boots. Work boots should be worn on site that protect against crushed toes due to heavy or falling equipment or materials. They also need puncture-resistant, nonslip soles, as work surfaces can have sharp objects on them, and slips are a major hazard at the job site.
- Hand protection – Different types of work gloves are best suited to particular tasks and risks at construction sites. For example, there are heavy-duty leather and canvas gloves for protecting against cuts and burns, welding gloves for welders, heavy-duty rubber gloves for working with concrete, insulated gloves with sleeves for working with electric hazards, and chemical-resistant gloves for working with chemical agents.
- Work pants and work shirts – Workers should protect their full legs, full arms, and torso against cuts, scrapes, burns, and other superficial injuries with thick, flexible work pants and shirts. These should fit closely and never be baggy, while allowing for maximum mobility.
- Face and/or eye protection – Safety glasses or face shields should be worn whenever there is a danger of flying debris or harmful dust getting in the eyes. Cutting, grinding, welding, chipping, and nailing are some activities that necessitate protective eyewear. Along with basic safety glasses, some other protective wear for the face include welding shields, chemical splash goggles, and dust goggles.
- Hearing protection – Chainsaws, jackhammers, and other tools and heavy equipment create noise levels that can damage workers’ hearing—particularly with prolonged exposure. Pre-molded or formable ear plugs are usually the best bet, but acoustic foam-lined ear muffs that tightly seal against the head can work well too.
- Reflective/high-visibility garments – Brightly colored and/or reflective jackets, vests, or other upper-body clothing is important for worker visibility. It’s generally advisable to wear it at all times at a job site, but it’s especially crucial along active roadways, in low lighting, and for dusk and nighttime work. In certain circumstances, it’s mandated by OSHA.
Other Personal Protective Equipment
This certainly doesn’t cover all types of PPE. Personal fall protection, for example, is an entire class of personal protective equipment. There are numerous varieties for all types of elevated construction work. Respiratory protection is another important class at sites where workers are exposed to airborne hazards. Again, every job site and every task must be individually assessed for potential dangers, and workers must be made to wear appropriate personal protective equipment for the situation.