Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) protects you, or your workers, from a whole range of different risks which are present when working on construction sites. However, they’re also a requirement in other work environments such as security, events marshalling, factories and warehouses, roadworks, and rail and underground environments.
In fact, even in domestic environments where you’re carrying out a spot of DIY at home, it’s highly recommended that you kit yourself out with the correct PPE. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations before using new tools, materials or substances.
The purpose of personal protective equipment is to prevent injury and illness, in the short- and long-term. While it is important to reduce the risks as much as practically possible, it’s often impossible to remove the risks completely.
There are seven main areas of PPE, with a huge range available for each type. It can often be confusing, but it is essential to choose the correct equipment.
By wearing reflective high-visibility workwear, you can be seen at a distance no matter the light conditions. Available in vests, jackets, jumpers, bodywarmers, trousers, t-shirts and shorts, you can select whatever is suitable for the type of work and the weather conditions.
Primarily available in yellow or orange to comply with regulations, this clothing helps to prevent accidents often caused by individuals not being visible from vehicles. With the reflective strips, even the smallest amount of light will allow someone wearing hi-vis workwear to stand out.
For those working in rail and underground environments, then orange is essential, while those working in construction often have a choice. However, for the individual who is out walking their dog at night, then you could have a green, pink, red, or blue hi-vis vest.
First of all, it is essential that footwear fits comfortably, especially when you’re expected to wear it all day long. Secondly, it needs to be fit for purpose, which is why a choice needs to be made between safety shoes or safety boots.
In many workplaces, protective footwear is needed and will need to meet a minimum standard with a toecap which provides at least 200 joules of energy impact protection. Even service engineers and warehouse workers will be required to wear safety shoes.
However, for construction sites and other working environments, there are other hazards. You have mid-sole penetration resistance which protects your feet from upturned nails, as well as slip resistance, anti-static and insulating properties, and energy-absorbing heels.
When you’re on site, you’re at risk of knocking and scraping your head as well as from falling objects. That’s why you have hard hats to prevent a serious head injury and they are often a requirement for anyone stepping foot on site.
Whatever you choose, it needs to be suitable for the risks present and as such, you should first carry out a risk assessment of all the possible risks which workers will encounter and the relevant standards which must be met. For example, some helmets are suitable for temperature extremes, can insulate against low voltages, and withstand molten metal splashes.
Consider the wearer and their needs too. For added comfort, some are lighter and have a sweatband for prolonged use, have ventilation for cooling air flow, and feature a cradle to ensure the helmet is secure. Plus, colour is often important for identifying a worker’s position and qualification.
Safety helmets are the norm on site, but bump caps are available for those who are in low-risk environments and are just like wearing a normal baseball cap.
It’s also important that your headwear doesn’t negatively impact other PPE equipment you’re required to wear, such as hearing protection and safety glasses. For this reason, with some safety helmets, you can attach visors and earmuffs.
There is nothing worse than getting something in your eye. When you’re carrying out work which produces dust and debris, or working with chemicals, eye protection is a must to save you from irritation, discomfort and potential vision loss. Essential in the workplace, you should even wear safety glasses or safety goggles at home when sanding the woodwork.
They ensure that your vision is not hindered while carrying out the task at hand, whilst creating a protective barrier for your eyes. Available with ventilation to prevent them steaming up, they’re also available with filters for specific risks such as UV, sun and other bright lights.
Like other PPE, there are ranges available for different risks, including energy impacts and increased robustness, and you need to decide whether these are to be worn for occasional, intermittent or continuous work. These are all identified by markings on the lens and the frames.
Wearing hearing protection, such as ear plugs and ear defenders, is essential when working in environments prone to high noise levels and frequencies. By wearing them correctly, you reduce the risk of suffering temporary or permanent hearing damage by limiting the sound energy reaching your inner ear.
You may find yourselves wearing these when working in a noisy factory or when operating machinery and equipment on a frequent basis, such as lawnmowers and chainsaws. And it is essential to choose the right hearing protective equipment which provides the right level of protection. Too little, and damage is still possible. Too much and the wearer may not hear important noises such as the fire alarm.
The SNR value represents how many decibels the ear plugs or muffs reduce sound levels by. The target is between 70 and 80 decibels. For example, an average sound level of 113 decibels would require ear muffs with at least an SNR value 34 in order to bring the in-ear exposure level down to 79dB.
And what you choose needs to take into account personal preference (some people don’t like things in their ears), as well as the working environment and other PPE (ear defenders will likely mean a safety helmet doesn’t fit correctly).
Respiratory protection equipment is required where activities and materials which can affect your breathing and your health are present. These include dust, metal fumes, gas or vapours, and can occur during those DIY jobs, as well as in construction, industrial and chemical workplaces.
You need to know precisely what you’re protecting against. Each will have its own standard for protection and will be identified on the mask or respirator filter with letters and numbers. Plus, what is suitable for one person may not be for another because of different face shapes and sizes, and they need to be clean-shaven.
Whether you choose disposable face masks or respiratory masks which require the regular replacement of filters, regulations state you must test whether it fits correctly with an air-tight seal. For low-level risks, a disposable mask would be suitable; for higher risks which individuals are constantly exposed to, then a half mask or full mask could be necessary.
When you’re working with your hands, then they’re always going to be vulnerable to damage. This can range from dryness to cuts, blows, temperature extremes and reactions from handling chemicals. The best and most effective way of preventing skin problems and injuries is to ensure you have gloves which provide suitable hand protection.
Disposable gloves are ideal for medical use and food-preparation areas in which the gloves are for one-time use.
For those working with chemicals, or submerging their hands regularly in water (wet work), then PVC gloves and gauntlets will ensure your hands stay dry with skin not coming into contact with any liquid. Plus, they provide better grip to make the job easier.
Manual workers will likely need general purpose gloves which provide protection from abrasions, blade cuts, tears and punctures, with their performance ranked with numbers 1 to 4.
When choosing protective gloves, they need to be comfortable to wear whilst not restricting the task at hand so they’re more likely to actually be worn. When gloves are tight, your hands feel tired and lose their grip, while gloves which are too large will impair work.
Buying Your PPE
It is so important that you buy what is suitable for the risks you’re protecting against. Under-protecting is dangerous, and even over-protecting can be bad for certain types of PPE. That’s why it is important to have risk assessments carried out as this will identify every risk which is present on your site.
Also remember that safety shoes, safety boots, and hard hats are all except from VAT. So if you’re being charged VAT for these items, they either do not comply with the minimum standards or the seller doesn’t have a clue what they’re doing. Either way, you should find somewhere else to shop.
For workplaces, they’re available at our lowest price with some featuring multi-buy deals, and for the DIY enthusiast, you can purchase them individually so you can buy only what you need.