Safety is a major issue for construction workers in all trades. Each year, accidents happen frequently in the construction industry, and often times it is due to the absence of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or failure to wear the provided PPE. PPE is equipment that will protect workers against health or safety risks on the job. The purpose is to reduce employee exposure to hazards. These hazard risks can be anything from wet floors to falling debris and everything in between.
PPE includes items such as hardhats, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear, safety harnesses, and respiratory protective equipment. Let’s explore some PPE commonly used on construction sites and their benefits.
Hard hats are common on construction sites. They are designed to protect against flying or falling objects that would otherwise impact or penetrate the worker. Some hard hats are equipped with accessories such as face shields and earmuffs. Hard hats should be well-fitted; those that are too large or too small are inappropriate for use.
Eye and Face Protection
Eye and face protection is as important as head protection. Safety goggles, spectacles, and full-face shields can give you the protection needed for the eyes and face. Metalwork, woodwork, hot-work, and air-tool operations all require this type of protection. General laborers can also benefit from safety goggles since there is usually debris on construction sites.
Respiratory protection is vital on sites where air contaminants or toxic substances are present. Sometimes what you can’t see can hurt you. Respiratory protections like respirators are designed to protect you from dust, fumes, paint spray, pesticides, and other dangerous substances that could cause permanent impairment. In work environments, respirators are relied upon when adequate ventilation is unavailable or other engineering control systems are not feasible or inadequate.
Each year, around 150,000 hand injuries are reported. Occupational skin diseases such as contact dermatitis, skin cancers, and other skin injuries and infections are the second most common type of occupational disease and can be very costly. Because construction jobs typically require the use of hands, gloves are an essential PPE item to provide skin protection. Some examples of commonly used gloves include rubber gloves, cut-resistant gloves, chainsaw gloves, and heat-resistant gloves. Using gloves helps to avoid hazards when working with chemicals, glass, sheet metal, electricity, hot materials, or slippery objects.
Industrial noise is often discounted as an occupational hazard since it isn’t visible to the eye. However, 22 million workers in the United States are exposed to potentially harmful noise levels annually. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends that worker exposure to noise be reduced to a level equivalent to 85 dBA for eight hours to limit occupational noise-induced hearing loss. Earplugs and earmuffs are common PPE for hearing protection. It is important to note that earmuffs are more effective in reducing high-frequency noise while earplugs are more effective for reducing low-frequency noise.
Using PPE, and wearing it properly, is vital to avoid unnecessary injury in the workplace. Choosing not to wear PPE can be dangerous especially when it could save your life. The safety of every worker on every job site is important; having an understanding of these various PPE devices can help prevent a serious injury.