Personal Protective Equipment is designed to be a last resort when all other safety measures have been put in place. All PPE provides some level of protection, and some PPE is required by law whilst others just provide additional protection. On a construction site, for example, do you need to wear a hard hat or a bump cap or can you choose to wear none at all? Do you have to wear specific safety boots, or can you wear what you choose? What about eye protection, hand protection, or body protection? Do you need to wear Hi-Vis or is that a choice?
What PPE is required for construction workers? Find out below!
The Health and Safety Executive only outlines four mandatory, legally-required protections for a construction site: provisions for head protection, foot protection, body protection, and Hi-Vis; however, it’s best to provide more protection than is needed, so if your site poses a high-risk of cuts to the hands or arms, make sure you provide cut-resistant safety gloves. If there will be flying debris, or your workers labour outside in sunny conditions, be sure to provide eye protection with built in sun-protection too. The same goes for the fabric of the clothing - some clothing provides UV protection whilst others does not.
If you want to keep your workers safe on the basic, legal level, here’s what you need to know - but it’s recommended you do more than just the basics as workplace accidents can cost you time and money.
Head protection is required by law when there’s a risk of head injury on all construction sites. All construction work should be assessed to minimise the risks: for example use toe boards on scaffolding or brick guards when necessary to prevent objects from falling to the ground. If you’ve put all the safeguards in place to minimise risk, but there is still a risk of injury, you should make sure all workers are provided with head protection to comply with PPE Regulation 1992 which mandates head protection in construction.
Head protection should be in good condition, undamaged, fit the person wearing it properly, be supplied by a reputable supplier (there are fake hard hats out there).
To ensure your workers wear head protection, make it a site rule, always wear your hard hat on site, and check people wear theirs.
The only exception to the hard hat rule is for Sikhs who wear turbans. They do not have a legal requirement to wear a hard hat on a construction site, but you may want to impress upon any visitors or workers the dangers of not wearing a hard hat.
All clothing on a construction site must protect the wearer from on-site hazards. Some ask if those on a construction site can wear shorts - the answer is up to each site; however, trousers protect the lower leg from cuts, grazes, splinters, skin damage, and infection. For summer weather, it’s important to protect from the sun because overexposure can cause sunburn and increase the risk of skin cancer. In cold weather, long trousers can keep the wearer warm.
Protective footwear is required on construction sites to protect the delicate foot bones and tendons when a worker performs heavy work. Steel toecaps protect against dropped objects; midsole protection protects against punctures or penetration such as treading on a nail. Workers do not need to pay for their own safety footwear; basic safety footwear should be provided by the employer as long as you make it last a reasonable time (boots should be replaced every 6-12 months usually except in exceptional weather conditions). Any PPE needs to have a ‘CE’ mark to comply with PPE 2002 regulations.
Some ask if rigger boots can be worn on a construction site - the appeal is that they are like laceups and wellies in one. But some construction companies have found wearers are likely to suffer from a twisted or sprained ankle because rigger boots are looser. Some contractors do not allow them on site, but it’s up to your specific site; however, it’s best to wear a boot that is fit for purpose. It’s most recommended to find a safe, comfortable boot that is made for the construction site.
If your site has asbestos, lace up boots are prohibited. For sites pouring cement, then wellington boots provide the most protection since cement burns can happen when cement goes into safety shoes or boots (but change back into safety boots when changing tasks as wellies don’t provide protection from dropped objects).
Hi-Vis is required when your construction site has a Hi-Vis policy. Your employer will provide this equipment for you for free. If your site is located near vehicles then you must wear Hi-Vis, even drivers need to wear it when leaving their vehicle. Often a simple Hi-Vis vest is sufficient to provide safety, but for temporary traffic management, full hi-vis (trousers and long-sleeved jacket) is recommended to provide higher visibility to drivers from a greater distance.
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