Importance of Personal Protective Equipment on the Job Site
Category: Equipment and Solutions
Personal protective equipment (PPE) for construction sites includes a variety of clothing and accessories that keep you from sustaining life-threatening injuries. While wearing extra gear, especially in the heat, can be bothersome, it’s critical for your protection and compliance with OSHA regulations. If you’ve ever questioned the importance of PPE in the workplace, find out why you need a safety equipment list and the types of gear you should wear in this complete guide to personal protective equipment.
Why Is Personal Protective Equipment Important?
On the job site, PPE saves lives and prevents serious injuries. This equipment is so essential to safety that OSHA mandates it for specific situations. If you don’t have PPE on, you could lose an eye or limb, sustain severe burns or suffer a debilitating head injury.
PPE creates a barrier between you and the dangers you might encounter on the job. The types of personal protective equipment you might wear depends on your field. For instance, a medical worker might need to wear a gown and gloves approved for protection against contact with blood and other bodily fluids, but you would not need this type of gear in the construction industry. You need to be aware of all personal protective equipment tips for your specific job.
Even when you know that you need construction job site personal protective equipment, the PPE required depends on what job you are doing. If you are welding, you will need different PPE from someone who operates a backhoe. Your employer must supply you with the PPE you need for your job, and the company must pay for it. You do not need to buy your PPE aside from work boots. You should also receive training to know when to wear your PPE and the types you need.
What Are the Types of PPE?
Types of PPE and their functions include accessories to protect your head, eyes, lungs, ears, hands and feet. The specific type of PPE to protect each body part depends on the dangers you face. Train your workers on all aspects of your workplace’s personal protective equipment list. PPE examples are footwear, hardhats, gloves, goggles, respirators and hearing protection.
What Are the PPE and Their Uses?
If you ever wondered why PPE is essential, you need to understand the uses of the types of safety gear available to you. Personal protective equipment is a vital part of a healthy work environment. On the job site, dangers are everywhere, and wearing the right gear could save your life or a limb.
1. Safety Footwear
Footwear covers your feet on all sides to protect against fatigue, heat and impacts. Training sessions will make it easier to identify the type of shoes or work boots that you need to stay safe. General guidelines will help you choose the best all-purpose work boots for your construction job.
If you work in any area where items could fall or rollover your feet, you need safety-toed shoes. The shoes must meet the minimum standard set out by ANSI Z41-1999. The rule outlines the minimum strengths required to protect against injury from impacts and compression.
When explosive products are near, you may need shoes that conduct electricity to the ground to prevent static electricity from building in your body. If you work around electricity, you may need nonconductive shoes to protect yourself against electric shocks.
Treads on the bottoms of your shoes should match the conditions. For example, when working in wet areas or on concrete, you need slip-resistant rubber soles. Slip-resistant shoes are ideal for any place where conditions may be slick. For working in snowy or icy weather, you will need studded treads.
Additions to standard work shoes may include toe guards or metatarsal guards. These extras fit over standard shoes to increase protection against falling debris or crushing injuries. Toe guards may have aluminum, steel or plastic construction. Metatarsal guards protect the instep area from harm.
Protective footwear is one of the only types of PPE you need to purchase yourself. Check with your employer about specifics for the work boots you need. Do you need conductive or nonconductive boots? Shoes with steel toe guards or with non-skid soles?
2. Safety Helmets
A hardhat protects your head from falling objects and is one of the most well-known personal protective equipment examples. A safety helmet or hardhat can do more than prevent concussions, though.
A safety hardhat keeps your head safe if you hit it on something. If you wear a hardhat made from a nonconductive material, it can protect you from electric shock. A helmet also protects your hair. When covered by a hardhat, your hair is less likely to tangle in equipment or be exposed to caustic chemicals. Having a hardhat on also reduces the amount of dust that gets into your hair. Without a hardhat, your hair can hold onto dust from the work site, putting this material close to your face where you can breathe it in and potentially irritate your lungs.
Hardhats come in three classes based on the protection they offer:
- Class A hats protect against impacts and electricity up to 2,200 volts.
- Class B hardhats offer a higher level of protection from electrical shocks, up to 20,000 volts, and superior protection against impacts and penetration.
- Class C hats do not protect against electric shock but offer impact protection and comfort.
Your hardhat protects your life, which is why you must inspect it every time you wear it. To improve accuracy when checking the integrity of your hardhat, do not paint or decorate the hat with stickers or other objects that cover the surface. These things hide cracks that could affect the hardhat’s performance. If your hardhat has protected you from a falling object, get a replacement before going back to work.
Check the suspension inside the hat, too. This material separates your head from the shell of the helmet with a cushion of air. The air acts as a shock absorber in case something hits the hardhat. Maintain 1-1/4 inches between the suspension and the top of the hardhat and never use this space for storage. If you give your hardhat to someone else, replace the suspension and have the new person adjust it to create the 1-1/4-inch space needed.
A hardhat on a construction site can save your life, and it’s a required piece of PPE. However, this safety device will only protect you if it is in good condition. Inspecting your hardhat regularly is as important for your safety as wearing it every time you go to the job site.
3. Hand and Skin Protection
You want to protect your hands and skin when on the job. One way to do that is by wearing the right kinds of gloves. You will find several types of materials for gloves that protect against burns, electrical shocks, chemicals or lacerations.
- Insulated Rubber Gloves. Rubber gloves protect you from electrical shocks.
- Fabric Gloves. Fabric gloves keep your hands safe from minor burns, scrapes, chafing, dirt and cuts.
- Metal Mesh or Leather Gloves. Thick and durable, metal mesh or leather gloves protect against punctures, cuts and burns.
- Chemical Resistant Gloves. Chemical resistant gloves are a must-wear when you need to handle hazardous chemicals.
As with hardhats, inspect gloves every time you wear them. Look for holes or breaks in the surface. Always choose gloves that fit your hands properly. If your gloves are too large, the loose fit can make it challenging to use your hands. Gloves that are too small become uncomfortable quickly. To figure out your glove size, measure your hand’s circumference. Pick the glove size that is closest to the measurement when trying on gloves.
4. Eye and Face Protection
Several types of eye and face protection are available. You may only need safety goggles to protect your eyes from impacts. If you’re welding, you might need a full face shield to keep your eyes and face safe from the light. For general use during construction activities, when you need to protect your eyes from dust and flying debris, safety goggles with side protection will suffice.
If you wear prescription glasses or contacts, you must still wear safety goggles. Some types of protective eyewear will fit over your glasses or you may get safety goggles with prescription lenses. In many cases, you can wear contact lenses with your safety eyewear. You should remove the contact lenses immediately if you have chemicals splash into your face.
5. Lung Protection
Not all worksites require respirators or dust masks to protect your lungs. When you do need lung protection, you must understand OSHA rules to stay safe on the job. All respirators provided by employers must have NIOSH certification, as noted on the device, whether required or used voluntarily.
If you must use a respirator for any part of your job, you need a medical exam and fitting to ensure the device you use fits you and you are physically capable of using it. During the medical exam, a physician may have you answer a medical questionnaire. Some employers prefer a physical examination that covers the same information. Regardless of the method used, the doctor will be able to determine at the end of the evaluation if you are capable of safely handling a respirator without assistance. Depending on any preexisting conditions, the doctor may recommend you return for annual reevaluations. Most workers do not require yearly reevaluations.
Two types of fit tests ensure the respirator that a worker uses fits correctly and the employee knows how to put it on. The qualitative test determines whether a worker can correctly fit the respirator onto their face. A quantitative test measures the amount of air that escapes from the sides of the respirator. More air leakage indicates an imperfect fit that either requires another respirator or better adjustments.
For areas that are immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH), workers must use respirators. Respirators have a full facepiece with a separate supply of air. For areas that are not IDLH, the selection of a respirator depends on the hazards encountered. For example, to protect against vapors or gases, employers should provide respirators with an air supply. Protection against particulate matter requires protection with either an air supply respirator or an air-purifying respirator with a filter that has NIOSH certification for particles.
OSHA permits you to wear a respirator, even when not required. Some workers may want to protect themselves from dust particles or allergens on a worksite that no one else has. For any voluntary use of a respirator, the employees still must follow all manufacturer-provided instructions for the device. The use of the respirator must not create a problem on the job site. Additionally, if a worker provides their own respirator, it cannot be used for purposes other than its design allows. For example, a dust-filtering respirator cannot protect against gases.
6. Hearing Protection
Hearing protection reduces the effect noise has on the eardrums. There are three types of hearing protection available:
- Reusable earplugs molded to the individual’s ear.
- Single-use earplugs designed for disposal after use.
- Earmuffs that create an airtight seal around the ear.
OSHA uses the sound level and duration to determine whether to require hearing protection. For instance, exposure to a sound measuring 90 dB for eight hours requires protection as does any sound of 115 dB for less than 15 minutes. Using protection is essential even if the noise doesn’t seem too loud. Sustained noise levels over time can severely damage hearing.
What Is the Purpose of Wearing PPE?
There are risks to not using the appropriate PPE. This gear could save a life in an accident by preventing concussions, severe lacerations, burns, eye injuries, hearing loss and amputations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 5,147 workplace deaths in 2017. About 47% of the fatalities occurred in industries involved in using heavy equipment, construction and transportation and material moving. Exposure to harmful substances or environments such as drugs, temperature extremes and electricity accounted for 531 deaths. While the report does not indicate whether those who died were wearing the correct PPE, having protective equipment can keep everyone on your job site from adding to these statistics. The safety risks of not using correct PPE are too significant to avoid putting on this gear.
1. Why Is it Important to Wear Protective Clothing and Equipment?
Contact with moving objects or equipment was the second most common cause of injuries on job sites in 2017. Examples of contact with moving objects include workers getting struck by moving objects, having a body part pinched or compressed, and experiencing excessive vibrations or friction. The category accounted for 26.0% of injuries or 229,170 incidents. This injury rate illustrates the importance of PPE in the workplace because safety gear could have protected workers from some of these problems.
Workers can avoid many of the injuries in this category by wearing the appropriate equipment. Hardhats and eye protection keep the head and eyes safe from flying or falling debris. Durable footwear keeps the feet from getting crushed under equipment. On construction sites, 30% of all injuries involve cuts and lacerations. Among these injuries, 12% occurred to the hands. Wearing gloves protects workers’ hands from getting cut.
Personal Protective Equipment Guidelines for Your Worksite
Employers need to encourage the use of PPE through personal protective equipment training and by reinforcing policies on using the gear. Keeping workers up to date on the latest safety requirements keeps them safe while preventing fines from OSHA.
1. Train Employees on the Use of PPE
Training should discuss why PPE is essential and the purpose of using it. Workers must also learn about when to use PPE, how to put it on and take it off, limitations of the gear and how to maintain it. Retraining sessions should occur for workers who fail to follow proper procedures after their initial training or for all employees after significant changes in the job site or PPE used. To ensure OSHA compliance, employers must document and retain certification for all workers who complete training.
2. Model Correct Usage of PPE
During training sessions and every time after, employers must display the correct use of PPE anytime they enter the job site. A supervisor must wear a hardhat and safety goggles if employees at the site also must wear them. No worker should be able to ever point to a time when a supervisor or employer failed to wear the correct PPE for the situation. Workers look up to those in higher positions to model the proper behavior, particularly when it comes to using PPE.
3. Provide the Right Equipment
OSHA requires employers to pay for all safety equipment their workers use except for footwear. Employers must also maintain the equipment and replace any gear that wears out.
4. Open Communication Channels
While employers should always take questions and concerns during training sessions, keeping communication channels open throughout the year should remain a priority. Only if workers can report unsafe conditions can an employer make improvements. Encourage anonymous reporting to make the process easier for anyone who feels concern for safety to speak up.
5. Improve Safety Daily
Employers must make safety a top priority every day on the job site. One way to improve safety is by encouraging employees to use PPE and by setting up systems that make sure that everyone has on the appropriate, necessary gear. Using PPE shouldn’t be the end of a workplace safety policy.
Programs that train workers in the safe use of equipment enhance the effectiveness of any PPE they wear. OSHA recommends employers use all work practice and engineering controls possible to reduce the need for PPE. Personal protection equipment should only serve as a backup for protecting workers. Using safety mechanisms such as protective railings around dangerous machinery or practices such as keeping unnecessary workers away from heavy equipment contribute significantly to protecting employees from injuries even before they put on their PPE.
To identify the types of PPE required on the job site, employers need to look for possible dangers through hazard assessments. These surveys look over the work area to find potential dangers employees need protection from. Risks include biological hazards, excessive heat or cold, light or radiation dangers, rollover possibilities, dangerous dust or chemicals, impact causes or penetration chances.
When employers conduct hazard assessments, they ensure workers continue to use the correct PPE for the job. If anything changes at the job site or available equipment, supervisors must reassess the PPE required and make appropriate changes, if needed.
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