Types of PPE for Construction Workers

Topics: Loss Control

Summary: Personal protective equipment (PPE) is an essential piece of NIOSH’s hierarchy of controls for improving workplace safety. As construction workers face more job site hazards than those in other industries, providing the right PPE is vital to keeping them safe. Learn more about the specific types of PPE for construction workers and how, when used properly, it can help reduce injuries and accidents.

The Role of Personal Protective Equipment in Workplace Safety

Construction workers face more hazards on the job than those in many other types of industries. Their daily duties include activities such as climbing scaffolding, working on rooftops, utilizing heavy machinery and power tools, being exposed to chemicals or asbestos, and much more. It’s vital that employers make these workers' safety a top concern at all times.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) created the hierarchy of controls, which consists of five actions employers can take to reduce or remove workplace hazards based on overall effectiveness:
  1. Elimination: Physically remove the hazard
  2. Substitution: Replace the hazard
  3. Engineering controls: Isolate people from the hazard
  4. Administrative controls: Change the way people work
  5. Personal protective equipment: Protect the worker with personal protective equipment (PPE)
While removing all risks at a construction site is impossible, one of the most effective ways to help improve employee safety is to provide workers with the right personal protective equipment (PPE) for the job. This protective gear is worn to help minimize exposure to certain hazards and includes items like hard hats, gloves, safety glasses, respirators and more.

What PPE is Used in the Construction Industry?

According to NIOSH, personal protective equipment is only effective when used correctly and consistently. And, following the hierarchy of controls, it should be the last line of defense when it comes to construction workers’ safety. This is why employers utilizing PPE to increase workplace safety must create a PPE program that addresses the specific hazards their workers face, which PPE to use, regular inspection and replacement as needed and employee training on PPE. The program should be monitored continually to ensure its effectiveness over time.

However, PPE is still essential for keeping construction workers safer from some types of hazards. OSHA created a Construction PPE Standard to help employers learn about the different types of PPE, how to conduct risk assessments to select the right personal protective equipment for the conditions of the job site, and to provide ongoing training on proper use and care of PPE.

Some of the most commonly used PPE in the construction industry include:

Head protection

Protecting the human head is vital to keeping construction workers safe at a job site. The head and brain are easily susceptible to injuries from bumps, falling objects and collisions. Many nonfatal workplace accidents are due to head injuries.

Head protection is an essential form of workplace safety equipment for those in the construction industry. Hard hats and bump caps can be utilized to reduce the force of impact to the front, sides, back and top of the head, as well as protect from falling objects and electric shock.

Eye and face protection

Construction sites feature a wide range of materials that are cut, welded, nailed or drilled, creating dust, metal or wood chips that can cause an injury to the eyes. Nails, staples or wood slivers may become airborne during work duties and penetrate the eye. The eyes and face are also susceptible to chemical or thermal burns.

Every day, about 2,000 workers in the United States sustain eye injuries on the job. PPE such as safety glasses, goggles and face shields can help protect the eyes and face from injury.

Hearing protection

Hearing loss is so prevalent in the workplace that an entire month is about noise-induced hearing loss. Workers are subjected to continuous loud noises on a construction site, with machinery constantly cutting, grinding or sanding. This noise will damage nerve endings in the inner ear and could result in permanent hearing loss over time.

Employers should regularly test and monitor noise levels and schedule breaks for employees working in noisy areas. Additionally, PPE like headphones, canal caps, earmuffs or earplugs are essential in reducing ear injuries.

Respiratory protection

Dust, gases and vapors at a construction site can damage workers’ lungs, making respiratory protective devices key in keeping them safe. Common types of respiratory protection include respirators and powered respirators, filtering face pieces, breathing apparatuses and fresh air hoses.

Hand protection

Along with the head, hands are a commonly injured body part for construction workers. Hand protection should fit the employee’s hand comfortably, allowing them full flexibility of their fingers without being too tight. The workers need the ability to feel the tool or equipment they are using at the time to help with safety precautions.

Additional types of PPE for construction workers’ hands include gloves that protect from cuts, lacerations and chemicals, welding gloves, insulated gloves for electrical work, and heavy-duty rubber gloves for those doing concrete work.

Feet and leg protection

Protecting construction workers’ feet from tools, materials or falling equipment helps prevent injuries, but it’s also important to select slip-resistant footwear to help them avoid dangerous slips and falls.

PPE for feet and legs includes steel-toed boots to protect the employee from falling objects or punctures from sharp tools or materials. Composite-toed footwear may also be utilized on some job sites, especially when workers are exposed to extreme heat, cold temperatures, or electricity.

Protect Your Construction Workers with Loss Control Resources

The AmTrust Loss Control department specializes in risk management solutions to prevent injuries and improve employee safety. We help businesses take a proactive approach to reducing workplace accidents, identifying specific hazards and offering solutions that fit the organization’s specific needs. We even offer Virtual+ Loss Control services, leveraging mobile technology to perform worksite inspections and tour policyholders’ facilities remotely in real time. To learn more about our loss control services, please contact us today.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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