Personal protective equipment for construction | Pro Construction Guide

Personal protective equipment for construction

Flying particles, loud noises and dusty conditions make construction one of the most hazardous professions.

PPE or personal protective equipment for construction can minimize your risk, providing a line of defense against injury. Despite regulations, the reality is that many workers fail to protect themselves adequately.

Personal protective equipment for construction: Hearing protection

Hearing protection should be selected based on fit, noise exposure, hearing ability, communication needs and personal preference.

Protect against hearing loss

According to researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), at age 25 the average carpenter’s hearing is equivalent to that of a 50-year-old that was not exposed to the same noise. Excessive noise can damage nerves in the inner ear, leading to permanent and irreversible hearing loss.

The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to provide hearing protection for noise exposure of more than 90 dBA in an eight-hour period. Hearing protection for construction workers should reduce the noise level to no less than 70 dBA, controlling the risk, without cutting off too much noise. Construction workers should always be able to hear safety alarms and warning signals.

Because they block the eardrum, earplugs provide better protection at higher sound levels than earmuffs. They are also easier to wear in hot weather and confined spaces. Unfortunately, they can also be tedious to remove and insert, and are easy to lose and get dirty.

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Earplug options include disposable, inexpensive compressible earplugs, premoulded generic-fit earplugs, and custom-fit silicone earplugs that are fit-tested by a professional. Reusable earplugs must be cleaned regularly.

Earmuffs cover the exterior of the ears and work well in environments with intermittent noise and can be equipped with electronics to enhance communication. However, earmuffs can be incompatible with some safety gear and uncomfortable in heat. Banded earplugs or canal caps come on a headband and can be easily put on and removed.

Hearing protection should be selected based on fit, noise exposure, hearing ability, communication needs and personal preference. Ultimately, the best hearing protection is the one you will wear.

Acoustic Check: With earplugs inserted, cup your hands firmly over the ears and release. The earplugs should be blocking enough noise so that covering the ears with your hands results in no significant change in noise level.

Personal protective equipment for construction: Safety glasses

Wear safety spectacles with side shields or goggles.

Use personal protective equipment to protect against vision loss

Each year, more than 10,600 eye injuries occur in construction, causing pain, time off the job and lifelong vision problems. OSHA requires employers to provide appropriate personal protective equipment to protect you from flying particles; molten metal; liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids; chemical gases or vapors; and harmful light radiation. It is critical that PPE meet the hazards of the specific workplace.

Most injuries occur because workers weren’t wearing protective eyewear or were wearing eyewear without adequate side protection or improper fit. Most of the objects that cause impact injury to the eye are smaller than a pinhead. To protect against injuries of this type, wear safety spectacles with side shields or goggles. Secondary protective devices such as face shields are required in conjunction with primary protective devices during severe exposure to impact hazards.

A large percentage of eye injuries are caused by direct contact with chemicals. These injuries often result from inadequate eye protection, which allows a chemical to enter around or under protective eye equipment. Goggles offer the best protection against chemicals, but they must be fitted and worn correctly. Face shields may be required when workers are exposed to severe chemical hazards. Splash goggles are not ventilated so they are the best protection from chemical splashes, mists and dusts. They must be specially coated to prevent fogging.

Heat injuries to the eye can be caused by splashes of molten metal or hot sparks. To protect against heat injuries, wear goggles or safety glases with special-purpose lenses and side shields.

Eyecup or cover-type safety goggles should be worn when dust is present.

Lasers create intense concentrations of heat, plus ultraviolet, infrared, and reflected light radiation. Exposure to lasers can result in eye injuries, including retinal burns, cataracts, and permanent blindness. Select lenses that match the maximum intensity of the lasers.

Verify that lenses have the right shade number. Operations such as welding require filtered lenses. Check the lens number to make sure you have the proper level of protection.

Personal protective equipment for construction: Breathing protection

Dust masks provide personal breathing protection during building and remodeling activities that create dust.

Use personal protective equipment and breathe easier

When it isn’t feasible to control dust and other airborne hazards on a job site, respirators are recommended to provide protection for the worker. Even when exposure levels are below legal limits, OSHA recommends respirators for added worker comfort and protection.

NIOSH-approved filtering facepiece respirators or dust masks provide personal breathing protection during building and remodeling activities that create dust. N100/R100/P100 masks protect against dust levels up to 10 times the exposure limit. These disposable, HEPA-rated dust masks must be properly fitted to function properly. However, dust masks are ineffective against chemical vapors and may not be suitable for large amounts of dust or highly toxic dust.

If a respirator is used improperly or not kept clean, it can become a hazard. Dust masks should be replaced daily, if breathing becomes difficult, or if the inside of the mask is dirty. Other types of respirators include air-purifying respirators and atmosphere supplying respirators.

Air-purifying respirators are designed for specific hazards such as particulates, gas, vapor or a combination of hazards. A statement of certification indicates what a respirator is designed for and how much protection it will provide.

With respirator protection, you can breathe easier, knowing you are protecting yourself from the health risks associated with construction dust.

–By J. Costin

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