The fatal injury rate for construction workers is around 4 times all industry rate, making it the sector with the highest number of fatal injury accidents every year. Although risk assessments and other environmental controls can help decrease health and safety risks and hazards, workers are still subject to injuries and death. This is why Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is important to further protect individual workers from hazards.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are products that the user can wear or hold to be protected against risks and injuries at work, including injuries to the head, ears, eyes, lungs and skin. Well-fitted PPE can often be the difference between life or death — or serious and not-so-serious injuries— in the event of an accident at a construction site.
The essential PPE for your construction team should include:
- Hard Hats
- Ear Protection
- Safety Glasses & Face Protection
- Protective Footwear
- Protective & High-Vis Clothes
- Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE)
- Restraint System
1. Hard Hats
As part of the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 1992 Act, head protection is required on almost all construction sites. Head protection might include a safety helmet or hard hat but does not include a “bump cap” as these are not adequate protection against moving hazards.
According to HSE standards, head protection should be in good condition (not damaged), fit and be worn properly, and only be obtained from a reputable supplier.
2. Ear Protection
Those who work in construction are often exposed to loud noises that could cause them to lose their hearing and/or to suffer from tinnitus.
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 aims to protect workers’ hearing from excessive noise at their place of work by placing a duty on employers to supply adequate ear protection. Construction workers should therefore be supplied with high-performance ear defenders, earplugs or semi-insert/canal caps which should be worn if exposed to a sound level which is close to or greater than the occupational exposure limits for noise (85dB(A)).
To return to head protection for a moment, adequate head protection should not stop you from wearing hearing protectors (when needed).
3. Safety Glasses & Face Protection
Safety glasses, face screens, shields and visors can prevent dangerous chemicals, sparks, and flying and falling debris from striking your eyes. Safety glasses can also protect your eyes from the radiation caused by welding — or other high heat — equipment. You should also wear glasses if you grind, hammer or chisel.\
In the event that a foreign object, chemicals, pollen or other irritants do enter the eye, eyewash works to flush, clean and soothe the eyes fast.
4. Protective Footwear
Construction workers should wear protective footwear on the site in order to protect them from broken bones or injuries to the muscle or tendons. Boots or shoes with steel-toe caps help protect construction workers from dropped objects and puncture or penetration wounds (e.g., from stepping on a sharp object).
Protective footwear also protects from extreme weather conditions, electrical hazards, and trips, slips and falls.
A fifth of all non-fatal injuries in construction are caused by handling, lifting and carrying, according to a Health and Safety Executive UK report. To keep construction worker’s hands (and arms) safe then, a range of different gloves should be available — remember that different activities require different levels of protection, so you will need specific gloves for cutting, abrasive, thermal and chemical work (and so on).
6. Protective & Hi-Vis Clothes
Clothes worn on construction sites must offer some protection against hazards. The main reason is to protect the lower legs from cuts, grazes and splinters, but also to protect skin from the sun and cold weather (or ultraviolet light if you weld).
For additional protection, high-vis clothes can be worn to make the worker more visible, and therefore less susceptible to be the victim of an accident (e.g. a collision with a distracted driver). Indeed, high-vis clothing should be worn in all construction locations where vehicles or plants are operating — this includes drivers when they leave their vehicle.
7. Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE)
When working in oxygen-deficient atmospheres, or on a construction site with dust, gases and vapors, lung protection is essential. Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) might include:
- Filtering face pieces.
- Power-assisted respirators.
- Self-contained breathing apparatus.
- Fresh-air hose.
8. Restraint System
If construction workers need to work from a height, restraint systems (and fall arrest systems) can help to prevent falls. A restraint system includes a waist belt or harness, a connecting element (lanyard/rope), a connector (karabiner/hook) and an anchorage. This is used to support and suspend the worker to allow both hands to be free for work tasks that are “in the air.”
Other factors to consider when a construction worker is in a restraint system is a helmet with a chin strap (to ensure head protection remains on their head) and grippy footwear (for climbing and to prevent slips).
Written by Holly, for morSafe Supplies.