Guide to PPE for Construction Safety

By The GoCanvas Team on December 7, 2021
Tags: Construction, Safety

Construction safety helmets hanging on the wall

Though it’s almost impossible to remove all hazards on a construction site, one effective way to keep employees safe is the use of PPE. PPE is essential on construction job sites when there is no other way to remove the risk or hazard. Continue reading to learn more about PPE and what types of risks workers exist for workers on construction sites. The article will explain an introduction to PPE and workplace hazards, and we will explain how software can help manage construction safety programs and inspections.

 

What is PPE?

PPE is short for Personal Protective Equipment. It includes all devices that employees use to prevent risks in the workplace. PPE protects against injuries to the eyes, head, skin, lungs, and ears. 

Some examples of Personal Protective Equipment for construction safety include:

  1. Gloves
  2. Shoes
  3. Safety glasses
  4. Earmuffs
  5. Vests
  6. Coveralls
  7. Full bodysuits
  8. Respirators
  9. Hard hats

 

Why is PPE important?

PPE becomes essential after exhausting other measures of risk prevention. Personal Protective Equipment limits exposure to objects or chemicals that can cause harm to workers on the construction site. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Act) requires employees to wear PPE whenever necessary.

 

What hazards exist in the workplace?

A workplace hazard creates room for potential harm to the workers. Though employers are responsible for removing these hazards, employees should have a keen understanding of workplace safety hazards. OSHA agents may carry out routine inspections of construction sites to ensure site managers comply with safety requirements.

While construction safety is non-negotiable, common hazards in the workplace include:

  • Safety hazards
  • Biological hazards
  • Chemical hazards
  • Physical and ergonomic hazards

 

Safety hazards

Safety hazards are conditions or activities in the construction area that cause accidents, injuries, or death. Some actions or scenarios that constitute safety hazards are:

  1. Walking on slippery floors.
  2. Using a faulty working tool.
  3. Standing on an insecure scaffolding.
  4. Absence of fall protection equipment.
  5. Working in a poorly ventilated environment.
  6. Tight working schedules.
  7. Working in buildings with no alternative entrance and exit.

 

Chemical hazards

Chemical hazards expose a worker to direct contact with a harmful liquid. Construction site managers must provide workers with the correct equipment and put all measures to prevent leakage of chemicals. All employees that handle chemicals should have Safety Data Sheets for routine inspection and reports. 

 

Biological hazards

Biological hazards can come from exposure to viruses, bacteria, infected animals, or humans. A typical example is a Covid-19 pandemic. To prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace, workers should adhere to WHO guidelines for wearing PPE.

 

Physical hazards

Construction workers face noise problems and should wear earplugs to prevent harm. Employers must enforce the use of PPEs to reduce the risk of employee injury from physical hazards.

 

Ergonomic hazards

Excessive physical activities also expose workers to the risk of injuries. A worker who often lifts heavy objects or fails to use the correct object carrying-posture risks skeletal injury. Employers should provide work tools and switch to automation processes to limit ergonomic risks. 

 

What are the types of PPE?

Types of PPE fall under the category of protection. PPE includes helmets, goggles, boots, safety harnesses, reflective dress, gloves, earplugs, etc. Employers must assess the risks in the job site and provide a suitable PPE. 

Use of PPE for construction safety should be for:

  • Head protection
  • Hands protection
  • Feet and legs protection
  • Face and eye protection
  • Hearing protection
  • Lungs protection
  • Skin or body protection

 

Head protection

All construction sites require head protection. While employers remove hazards, workers need to wear the correct helmets. Conditions for adequate head protection include:

  • Ensuring the helmet is in good condition. If the headgear is faulty, throw it away while the employer replaces it.
  • A helmet should fit comfortably on the head. And the size should match the individual.
  • Head protection equipment should not prevent someone from wearing earplugs.
  • Only buy headgear from a reliable supplier.

 

Foot or leg protection

Construction workers must wear protective footwear on the job site to prevent foot injuries. A suitable foot PPE comes equipped with steel toecaps to protect the wearer from falling objects, and it should also protect against puncture wounds from sharp objects.

 

Ear protection

Construction workers experience high noise levels, which could lead to ear damage. Noise level and duration of exposure are the most significant risk factors for hearing issues. For example, there could be damages if the duration of exposure is short, but the noise level is high. Hence, workers should wear hearing protection that matches both duration of exposure and noise level.

Ear protection must protect without preventing the use of a helmet. Employers must train workers on PPE applications to ensure absolute construction safety. Possible options for ear protection devices include:

  • Earplugs
  • Semi-insert caps
  • Canal caps
  • Earmuffs

 

Face and eye protection

Eye and face protective devices prevent dust, gas, flying metals, liquid splashes, gas, and sun glare. The selection of eye protection must match the task and fit the worker; otherwise, wearing it becomes useless.

PPE for facial protection are:

  • Goggles
  • Safety glasses
  • Face shields
  • Visors
  • Face screens

 

Respiratory protection

Construction workers require protective devices that prevent the inhalation of dust, vapors, and gasses that damage the lungs. Like face protection, it’s essential to select a lung-protective device that fits the user and the intended purpose. If there’s no shrug fit of the respiratory PPE, use enough seal to boost protection levels. 

Examples of respiratory protection are:

  • Respirators
  • Filtering face-pieces
  • Fresh-air hose
  • Breathing apparatus
  • Powered respirators

Skin and body protection

Workers on construction sites also deal with harmful dust and chemical splashes. Employees should wear disposable coveralls or aprons that can withstand fluid hazards.

 

What does OSHA require for PPE?

PPE promotes construction safety by reducing exposure to hazards in job locations. OSHA states that PPE should pass safety standards for design and construction. Other OSHA requirements are:

  1. PPE must be easy to maintain, clean, and store.
  2. Should provide a comfortable fit
  3. PPE must be reliable, effective and encourage the worker to use

 

What PPE is needed for COVID-19?

Construction workers are at risk of contracting Coronavirus in the workplace, hence gear up. For prevention of Covid-19, the employer shall provide the following kits where applicable:

  • Gloves
  • Face shields
  • Googles
  • Non-surgical masks
  • N95 masks
  • Gowns

 

Who is required to pay for PPE?

The employer is required to cover the costs of purchasing the PPE for employees. Besides, the employer is responsible for each worker’s training on the use of the specific PPE free of charge. Each employee must demonstrate a proper understanding of the use and maintenance of the PPE. Where necessary, the employer is responsible for retraining the workers on PPE applications.

 

What are PPE inspections?

PPE Inspections are regular checks performed by companies to ensure total compliance to OSHA and construction safety standards. Pre-use PPE inspections help detect devices’ problems, exposing employees to hazards.

Inspections help identify issues with the equipment before an accident happens. Completing an inspection checklist can confirm whether the PPE is suitable for use or not. Sometimes, cleaning a protective device is all that is needed to put it into shape. But it’s also reasonable to shelve an item that performs below standard.

PPE inspections are an important part of construction safety and regular PPE inspections ensure the devices function as intended. PPE inspections can also be performed during an OSHA inspection, and employers should make sure to prepare for an OSHA safety inspection by creating a clear inspection plan. 

 

How can you provide safety training for PPE to employees?

As mentioned earlier, employers must train employees on PPE. Such training sessions can be individually or in groups, and they must address the hazards, selection, and use of the PPE. How the employer delivers the safety talk can determine its effectiveness, and the address cannot create positive results if only given to satisfy OSHA requirements.

Consider the following tips for practical safety training for PPE to employees:

  • Present the talk and not read – the presenter should understand the subject and speak in a practical tone. Be clear when speaking and avoid mumbling.
  • Choose competent presenters – A foreperson or supervisor with rich experience in safety should deliver the talk. Junior employees will take the program seriously when a superior engineer presents the safety talk.
  • Bar all distractions – Hold the talk in a serene environment.
  • The talk must be straightforward as it addresses the worker’s safety.
  • Make your topic concise.
  • Avoid generic talk that could distract the employees.
  • Use props where available
  • Document the safety training session

 

Benefits of managing safety programs with software 

Analyzing safety programs and creating safety checklists with mobile apps can prevent accidents to employees. The use of software can make your construction site safer and keep your business in compliance with OSHA’s directives. 

GoCanvas offers practical and easy-to-use OSHA mobile apps to enhance your OSHA’s compliance efforts.   Get in touch to learn how managing safety programs with software is essential for maintaining construction safety standards.