In the past few years, Ireland has seen a worrying increase in the number of fatal accidents on construction sites. In 2020, 15 workers died while doing their job – a 25% increase on the previous year (which in itself was 140% up on 2018). The risks that exist on a construction site means it’ll always be a dangerous industry to work in. And personal protective equipment (PPE)is an important starting point for ensuring employees are kept as safe as possible at work.
What makes PPE so important in the workplace?
For site managers and employers, it is possible to put in place various safety measures to lower the risks to their workers. Training, processes, and supervision are just three examples of safer working practices. But these can’teliminate all the potential hazards that exist – especially with accidents that might have irregular or unpredictable causes i.e., splashes or falling objects.
Where it’sneeded, the appropriate PPE can do so much to protect workers. As such, here’s the essential items of protective equipment that construction professionals may need while at work.
Essential equipment for construction workers
For the ears
Noise is a potent hazard on the construction site. It’s not just the operators of tools/machinery that can be at risk. Anyone on site who is exposed to high-level and high-volume sounds (even if only for a brief period) can suffer long-term hearing problems. Construction workers must be supplied with appropriate, well-fitting equipment such as ear defenders or earplugs as a result.
For the head
One obvious piece of PPE for the construction site is a safety helmet – sometimes better known as a hard hat.If a risk assessment identifies that objects or materials could fall from height, all workers must be equipped with a hard hat.
For the eyes and face
In construction, your face can be exposed to many different items, liquids, or gasses. The eyes are at particular risk from flying projectiles and splashes, for example. But the nose and mouth are also potential entry routes into the body for harmful substances. That’s why goggles, safety spectacles, face shields, or visors can be must-have items.
For the feet
Any construction worker must wear the correct footwear while working on site. Not only could there be sharp objects on the floor that can pierce the foot, but the surfaces are often slippery or uneven. As such, workers must wear sturdy boots to minimise injuries to the feet.
For the hands
Much like the feet, the hands can be exposed to various hazards on a construction site. It can include cuts and grazes from sharp objects or chronic conditions like Vibration White Finger – where the hands and fingers are exposed to repetitive vibrating motions from power tools. To protect against these hazards, robust safety gloves are another essential item to have.
Irish law: What are employers’ responsibilities?
Under Section 8 of the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, Irish employers are duty-bound to provide PPE to employees when risks can’t be contained or “adequately controlled”. But employees also have responsibilities in the use of PPE. They must use it when required to be used and ensure it is kept in good condition.
Ultimately, the safety of everyone on the construction site requires employers and employees to do their bit. And making sure that workers have the right PPE is the natural starting point.