Prevent injuries with PPE
PPE or personal protective equipment — hard hats, goggles and steel-toed work boots — may not generate the same envious stares at the worksite as the latest power tool or a new pickup truck, but the right stuff can help protect you from serious injury or worse. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report, “Injuries, Illnesses and Fatalities in Construction, 1,234 construction workers were killed in 2004, the fourth highest fatality rate among industry sectors. Another 401,000 construction workers suffered nonfatal injuries and illnesses. Here is how to prevent injuries with PPE
What to wear
Unlike steel workers or miners who wear mandated work garments, PPE for the construction industry is far less regimented. But that doesn’t mean anything goes. Always avoid loose-fitting clothing and clothing with drawstrings because both types can become ensnarled in building materials or caught in power tools. The same goes for jewelry.
Falling objects accounted for 11 percent of Hispanic construction worker deaths in 2004. No doubt some of them could have been prevented if the workers had been wearing proper protective headgear. Safety helmets or hard hats can protect against impact and penetration hazards, as well as electrical shock and burn.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), protective headgear should: resist penetration by objects; absorb the shock of the blow; resist water and burn slowly; and have clear instructions for proper adjustment. To be effective, headwear must be properly fitted. Do not clean your hard hat with paint thinners and cleaning solvents because they can weaken the shell and may eliminate electrical resistance.
Prevent injuries with PPE
Construction work often involves tasks that produce large volumes of dust (for example, sanding floors, woodwork or plasterboard seams). For such jobs, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health specifies using an N95 particulate respirator.
Many common power tools — miter saws, hammer drills, circular saws — generate more than 100 decibels, which is louder than the sirens used on police and fire vehicles. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study reported that by age 55, most carpenters will need a hearing aid. To prevent this happening to you, use single-use earplugs, which are made from foam or silicone rubber.
When it comes to footwear, avoid sneakers. While comfortable, they don’t provide protection against dropped items and may lack sufficient adhesion. Instead, opt for slip-and puncture-resistant, steel-toed work boots. Such footwear will protect you against impact and compression hazards and sharp objects. Also, check for embedded items in the soles of footwear. They can present hazards.
Nailing, grinding and cutting materials expose workers to flying particles. It is no wonder then that eye injuries are so frequent in construction work. The Center to Protect Workers’ Rights reports that 10,600 eye injuries force construction workers to miss work each year, and that the construction industry’s rate of eye injury is significantly higher than other industries. Here’s how to avoid eye damage:
- Wear safety glasses or goggles (note that common prescription glasses are considered inadequate for protection). They will protect your eyes against impact and dust. OSHA estimates that 90 percent of eye injuries can be prevented with proper eye protection.
- Make sure your eye protection fits properly.
- Inspect your work area for potential hazards that could become airborne if caught in a power tool or unintentionally struck (e.g. nails, screws).
Source: OSHA, CPWR
Proper PPE attire
Wearing all of these personal protection equipment items at the same time may be unnecessary, but dressing for safety while at work is important. Be sure you wear the right PPE for the job you’re doing.
- Head Gear: Always inspect your hard hat for perforation, cracking, deformity or other defects that can compromise its protective integrity.
- Eye Wear:Protect eyes from flying particles or debris with proper fitting safety goggles.
- Ear Safety: Prevent deafness when working around loud equipment with single-use earplugs.
- Face Protection: Use a snug-fitting N95 particulate respirator when working around wood and gypsum dust. Discard if soiled or damaged.
- Feet Coverings: Steel-toed boots protect against impact injuries. Choose boots made from waterproof, puncture-resistant materials with nonslip soles. Red Wing Shoes, for example, makes a full line.
- High-visibility Wear: Wear yellow and orange garments with reflective striping in high-traffic work zones. Clothing manufacturer Dickies offers high-visibility work wear with enhanced-visibility reflective striping.
- Outerwear: Treated outerwear, such as Carhartt’s, repels water in harsh weather. Retreating is typically recommended after several washings.