Head to Toe Protection: Essentials of PPE in the Construction Industry
Personal Protective Equipment – or PPE – is clothing and gear designed to protect the wearer from the injuries or infections that they risk around various workplace hazards. The hazards in the construction industry involve humans, machines and environmental risk factors which require unique safety measures as well as those common to other sectors. These can be hard to keep up with, so here is an overview of the areas in which they occur and the items workers must use to protect themselves.
Getting Your Head Straight
The face is the most sensitive – and often the most at risk – part of the body at construction sites. Environmental factors like powerful winds and smoke can exacerbate these risks. Safety glasses or face shields are essential depending on the hazards of the job, whether they be mechanical (e.g. welding, nailing), chemical or electrical (e.g. energized electrical systems).
Likewise, hard hats and other headgear are used both when walking around the site but also to specifically avoid bumping into dangerous objects and avoiding falling objects at certain, more dangerous locations.
Headgear has to be routinely maintained, inspected for damage and replaced if they are irreparably cracked or deteriorated because of a heavy blow, electrical shock or simply the wear and tear of age. Many come with additional features such as face shields, hearing protection, radios, and lights, which likewise require good maintenance. They also double as protection from rain and direct sun rays. Hearing protection (e.g. earplugs and earmuffs) can be especially important in noisy workplaces (i.e. prolonged exposure to noise above the safe level of 85 decibels) with loud and heavy equipment (like chainsaws) and machinery.
Proper maintenance and cleaning of equipment and machines can also help reduce the noise of their parts, for example, noisy motor engines. As with other PPE, the range for hearing protection is quite wide, and employers or workers should consider browsing online retailers like rs-online.com if they find their current equipment doesn’t suit their needs.
Feet and Hand Protection
You got to protect the parts of your body that handling and moving things at work. Accidents caused by tripping, slipping and falling hazards often lead to redundancy and even death. Work shoes/boots which are slip proof and touch enough to resist sharp things that could puncture their soles are essential.
Strong boots are especially important around heavy equipment and – again – falling objects. Well-fitting, job-tailored gloves are important too, whether it’s welding gloves or heavy-duty rubber gloves for concrete work.
Above and beyond individual safety, ensuring a safe working environment is crucial. Signs and barriers are the first frontiers for safety, ensuring alertness and diverting people away from the dangers on-site. Color-coded and simple signage helps provide direction, guide safety practises for workers and guests and can help with warnings in emergencies. Barriers are useful not only for partitioning one section of the site off from another but also for preventing access to hazardous zones by individuals, crowds or vehicles. They come in many sizes, strengths, and materials to fit a wide variety of needs.
Updating and fully complying with safety protocols can be an onerous task. However, the personal, reputational and financial costs avoided, make it well worth the time and energy invested.
Zara Lambert has experience working for a compensation company within the worker’s compensation claims department. She writes about some of the problems people are facing daily, in our modern world.