The use of Construction Site Personal Protective Equipment or PPE continues to be an important industry safety fundamental since the first hard hat arrived on the scene almost 100 years ago. Today, employers are required to pay for and provide workers with all PPE and ensure its proper use. Creating a Personal Protective Equipment Program has become the norm, outlining potential hazards on the job site and going over what PPE is required, and how to wear it, inspect it, and maintain it.
With the new health risks associated with the continuation of work through the COVID-19 pandemic, the recommendations for construction PPE have expanded beyond hard hats and safety goggles. As we move forward, the successful implementation of safety procedures within the construction industry will serve as a critical case study paving the way for other industries to reopen in a COVID-19 safe manner.
What PPE is Required for Construction?
In order to determine the specific requirements for PPC on a construction site, an employer or safety manager must first conduct a Hazard Risk Assessment.
A Hazard Risk Assessment is a thorough and systematic examination of your entire workplace in order to:
- Identify significant hazards
- Determine who may be at risk of injury from the hazards
- Establish the consequences of the hazards
- Decide on the likelihood of such injuries occurring
- Implement control measures to reduce workplace risks
Following the assessment, a risk matrix will be used to illustrate the findings of the assessment. The goal is to determine the overall risk rating of the hazard, and answers two key questions:
- What is the most severe injury possible if exposed to the hazard?
- How likely is the person to be injured if exposed to the hazard?
This matrix will guide the selection of the most effective hazard controls, thus dictating the required construction PPE for the specific workplace.
Types of PPE in Construction: What does Personal Protective Equipment Consist Of?
According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration or OHSA there are 5 types of construction PPE including eye and face protection, foot protection, hand protection, head protection, and hearing protection.
However, additional PPE such as respiratory protection, safety lines and nets, life jackets, and rubber insulating equipment are also required on worksites where hazards that warrant the use of them are present. Specific requirements from OSHA for construction PPE can be found here.
While cloth face coverings and other COVID-19 guidance for construction worksite safety are not currently standards or regulations legally enforceable through OSHA, government-mandated protocols are active and increasing in many US states, and employers themselves can also mandate any of these recommendations as they see fit.
“Most construction workers are unlikely to need PPE beyond what they use to protect themselves during routine job tasks. Such PPE may include a hard hat, gloves, safety glasses, and a face mask. However, under OSHA’s PPE standards for construction (29 CFR 1926 Subpart E), employers must consider whether their hazard and risk assessments, including construction site job hazard analyses, indicate a need for the use of more protective PPE” and must “Make every effort to protect workers through measures other than PPE.” – OSHA.gov