We all know that personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential at any construction job site. It minimizes the risk of injury, ensures compliance with OSHA guidelines, and provides total peace of mind.
The 21st-century safety improvements have made job sites safer than ever, but many seasoned craft professionals still aren’t using their PPE to its full potential. As a result, they leave themselves vulnerable to injury. Whether you’re in charge of your company’s PPE program or just looking for ways to stay safe on the job site, the following tips should prove helpful.
1. Use Headwear that’s Snug, Lightweight and ANSI-Approved
The hard hat is arguably the single most important piece of safety equipment on the job site, and yet many craft professionals are still using the same cracked, loose-fitting hats that their predecessors wore in 2012. There are some important hard hat guidelines that must be heeded:
Every hard hat should be ANSI (American National Standards Institute) Z89.1-2014 approved.
Any hard hat with cracks, fractures, or other damage should be thrown away immediately.
Hard hats should fit securely and comfortably and contain ample webbing.
Lightweight hard hats, like those made with ABS plastics and composite materials, are ideal.
2. Opt for Custom-Fitted Hearing Protection
Every year in the U.S., 22 million workers are exposed to harmful noise levels. As a preventative measure, OSHA mandates that hearing protection must be worn near any equipment or machinery that produces loud noises. Volumes above 90 decibels are especially dangerous for prolonged periods of time. Earplugs can prevent nerve damage and hearing loss after prolonged exposure to high-decibel industrial noise, but not all earplugs are created equal.
The biggest mistake that craft professionals and organizations make is opting for a one-size-fits-all approach. Earplugs must be custom-fitted to provide a firm seal and prevent the infiltration of noise pollution. These should always be purchased from a hearing healthcare professional.
3. Choose Eye Protection that Complements Any Existing Frames
If you or someone on your team wears corrective lenses, general safety goggles may not be advisable. Protective eyewear should mimic the shape of the glasses or be large enough to provide complete coverage while still fitting snugly. Loose or ill-fitting safety goggles will not provide the level of protection necessary on the job site. Also, when choosing eye protection, make sure that it provides complete side as well as front coverage.
4. Note the ANSI Standards When Purchasing Gloves
When shopping for gloves, it’s important to opt for ANSI-rated gloves with a high cut standard. ANSI defines nine levels of cut protection, rated A1 to A9. When working in a construction zone with materials like metal and glass, it’s imperative to have A7 gloves at the very least, and preferably A8 or A9.
5. Select the Right Boots for the Job
For construction sites, steel-toe and composite-toe boots are the preferred choices, but each type is suited to different environments. When it comes to protection against physical hazards and falling objects, steel-toe boots provide greater protection. However, in environments with extreme temperatures or where electrical work is involved, it may be better to opt for composite-toe boots.
6. Look Beyond PPE When It Comes to Safety
PPE tends to get all the attention, but safety on the job site is about much more than just what you wear. First, if you oversee safety training, consider incorporating hazard recognition training and leadership visibility. Safety training should be continual and ongoing.
In addition, it’s important to stay cool on the job site. Extreme heat can lead to heat exhaustion and heatstroke even in young, healthy individuals. Ensure that everyone remains hydrated and wears loose-fitting, light-colored clothing.
Finally, make sure to keep a first aid kit on hand at all times, steer clear of operational equipment, and note any potential safety hazards. These points should all be covered in the general training, but they bear repeating.
Safety in the construction zone is all about being proactive. As long as everyone on your team is committed to a safe and productive work environment, you can enjoy maximum productivity with minimal disruption.