Safety Equipment Checklist for Construction Workers

shutterstock 485734309By Jayme Cook

Construction workers constitute between 5 and 10 percent of the workforce in first-world countries and, in the U.S. in particular, it is an industry that requires few qualifications yet offers relatively good pay, possibly even financial security. Construction work, however, is also one of the most physically demanding and potentially dangerous jobs an individual can work. For construction managers, professionals and executives, the safety of their crews is usually a top priority and never far from the front of their minds. To ensure that safety, employers of construction employees that work in dangerous environments should use this checklist of safety equipment items and consider these tips regarding industry concerns and construction safety.

Construction Personal Protective Equipment

Construction Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is the most fundamental yet most crucial equipment required at any job site. Though the kind of construction jobs that workers perform will dictate more specialized safety equipment, most of the gear is designed to protect a worker's eyes, hearing, face, head, feet and hands.

  • For the eyes and face, face shields or safety glasses should be worn during any task that may result in debris or foreign objects entering the eyes, mouth or nose. Tasks like grinding, welding, nailing and cutting all require the eyes to be shielded, and jobs involving the pouring of concrete or the mixing of hazardous chemicals or materials, any work that involves airborne particles both visible and invisible to the naked eye, should be completed while wearing face masks. Face shields, goggles or safety glasses should also be worn if the employee will be exposed to electrical dangers, like work performed on energized electrical systems.
    • Tip: Construction professionals can't afford to be overly frugal when it comes to safety equipment, particularly regarding equipment like safety glasses, which are used every day and are frequently put to the test. The price of not investing in quality products can equate to both worker injury and legal costs. The estimated injury compensation payment for a construction worker is about $7,500 per year, which almost double the payment for employees in alternate industries, just $3,900 annually. So when purchasing quality equipment, and lots of it, a trusted retailer may prove to be an essential ally or corporate partner for owners or managers ordering equipment.
  • To ensure the protection of worker hearing, work performed in "high noise areas," like zones requiring the use of jackhammers, chainsaws or heavy equipment, requires that use of ear muffs or earplugs.
    • Tip: What many employers and employees often forget is that OSHA requires the regular cleaning or replacement of earplugs.
  • Construction workers' feet and toes are regularly injured on job sites where the lifting of heavy objects results in the dropping of heavy objects. Employees should never be on site without the proper footwear specified by OSHA or by individual employers, which usually means slip resistant, puncture resistant shoes or boots with an enforced toe.
    • Tip: Whether footwear is provided by employers or purchased by employees, this is another item that it's not worth it to skimp on. Inadequate shoes or boots increase the likelihood of a slip or fall. This again can compromise the safety of the workers and cost millions in compensation. A study conducted by the Denver International Airport found that almost 25 percent of all worker's comp claims were slip and trip incidents and that those compensation claims resulted in nearly $10 million in compensation payments.
  • Hand protection means wearing the gloves that are specific to the task and specific to each individual. Workers should be provided appropriate gloves based on their hand size. A properly fitted pair of gloves will yield a snug fit and will be adequate for the job the worker has been assigned. One size does not fit all when it comes to glove sizes as well as tasks. Workers performing concrete work should be issued heavy-duty rubber gloves; workers completing welding should be issued leather gloves; electrical workers should be issued insulated gloves and sleeves when performing jobs that expose them to electrical hazards.
    • Tip: The proper issuing of gloves also affects an employer's bottom line. Welding gloves are considerably more expensive than rubber gloves, so supplying all employees with welding gloves when only a few are welders would be costly and inefficient.
  • Equipment that protects the head is the most important gear a worker can wear. The first item a worker, manager, or visitor should be handed before walking onto a job site is a hard hat. The hard hat is designed to protect workers' skulls in areas where there might be a potential for falling objects, which would be every job site ever created. These specially crafted hats also guard against a worker bumping head-first into a fixed object as well as any accidental contact one's head may have with electrical hazards.
    • Tip: Develop a schedule to regularly inspect all hard hats for cracks, dents and general wear and tear. Any sign of deterioration means that it is time to retire that hat. In the event of a hard was worn when a worker experienced an electrical shock or heavy blow, that hat should be replaced immediately, even if the damage is not visually apparent.

Considering the hazardous nature of construction work, the protection of construction employees depends on the efforts that construction management and ownership make toward worker safety. This checklist of crucial equipment and helpful tips is a reliable resource to use at your job sites to ensure you are minimizing risk to your workers, limiting the likelihood of a lawsuit, and fulfilling your legal commitment to keep your employees safe.

Jayme Cook is a writer and English professor living in Phoenix. She enjoys punctuation marks, sashimi and the smell of wet paint. She dislikes people who cut in line.

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