PPE safety is a multidisciplinary field concerned with the safety, health and welfare of people in the workplace. Health and safety in the construction industry is widely concerned with controlling risks and managing safe practices to prevent injuries or fatalities before they occur. Health and safety equipment should be used as the key preventative measure.
Annually, there are 55,000 non-fatal injuries reported on construction sites. Combined with the 79,000 workers suffering from work-related ill health in the construction sector, 5% of those predicted to be employed in the construction sector have been injured by or suffer from a construction-related problem. By providing the correct health & safety equipment, these injury rates could be significantly reduced.
Many injuries and accidents on construction sites are a result of poor planning, insufficient training or a lack of awareness. Many of the health problems that develop as a result of working in construction are preventable by using Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE health and safety equipment.
Construction industry leaders must safeguard their employees in compliance with workplace legislation. Here are 9 ways using PPE safety equipment can improve health and safety conditions on construction sites.
1) Prevent Respiratory Diseases
Construction workers suffer from a high incidence of respiratory problems, with the main cause being exposure to dust and respirable crystalline silica (commonly found in concrete and bricks).
Construction workers are at a higher risk of developing cancer from their work than any other industry group. It accounts for over 40% of occupational cancer deaths and cancer registrations. The main causes of these cancers in construction workers come from asbestos and silica.
Short-term and long-term exposure to airborne particles can lead to any number of respiratory diseases. To reduce the number of sufferers and improve the respiratory health of workers on construction sites, respiratory PPE health and safety equipment is necessary as extra protection or when the risk can’t be completely prevented.
Common forms of Respiratory Protective Equipment are filtering facepieces such as disposable respirators, more frequently referred to as dust masks. For more information on levels of protection, take a look at our FFP Classes Explained Guide.
RPE must be chosen based on how it suits the wearer, environment and task. Distributing and using suitable RPE or PPE safety on construction sites can help reduce the number of workers that inhale dangerous substances that lead to respiratory diseases.
2) Prevent Hearing damage
The construction industry is a high-risk industry for noise-related ill health and it’s well known that high levels of noise can cause permanent and disabling hearing damage. Sometimes hearing worsens gradually and goes unchecked for years but damage can also be caused by sudden, extremely loud noises and can develop into tinnitus (ringing in the ears that can lead to mental illnesses from discomfort).
Controlling noise levels on construction sites can be difficult as machinery tends to work at a set decibel level and noise accumulates from different parts of the site.
Despite this, it’s still important to make sure the noise on site does not exceed the set decibel level. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 states the exposure limit values are a daily or weekly personal noise exposure of 87 dB and a peak sound pressure of 140 dB. A standard vacuum operates at 85dB. There are lots of different types of health & safety equipment on the market to help protect the hearing of your workers. Here at BETAFIT, we have an extensive range.
With that in mind, how do you combat this to ensure your employees are sufficiently protected from hazardous levels of noise?
Ear defenders and earplugs are the most common forms of hearing protection that are readily available and can be used by most employees. However, hearing protection should not be relied on as the only control. In fact, as PPE health and safety equipment, it should really only be used as a final step once all other relevant hazard prevention methods have been implemented.
3) Prevent Eye Injuries
Occupational eye injuries are both common and preventable. About 20% of occupational eye injuries occur in construction.
On construction sites, the vulnerability of eyes is frequently overlooked e.g. harmful lights/rays, projectiles, chemicals. Eye injuries can be instant and painful and although not usually fatal, they can be life-changing.
Safety eyewear such as safety glasses and safety goggles are essential forms of PPE safety. Eyewear safety standards are designed to help construction site managers and health and safety advisors provide the correct safety eyewear for the environment and task e.g. EN170 certified eyewear for UV protection and EN169 eyewear for welding and related techniques.
Many employees don’t wear safety eyewear because it can obstruct vision and is perceived to be uncomfortable. Providing comfortable, well-fitted health and safety equipment that is fully certified will help encourage employees to wear them when needed.
4) Prevent Skin Diseases/Injuries
All construction workers are at risk of skin diseases including contact dermatitis and cancer. Bricklayers, roofers, road workers and painters are at particular risk because of frequent contact with harmful substances.
Although employers should carry out a COSHH assessment if hazardous substances are in use to make sure employees are briefed accordingly, disposable coveralls can protect against substances from dust and dirt all the way up to chemical splash and hazardous particles dependent on the type of coverall used.
Gloves and suitable footwear should also be worn but coveralls are a form of health & safety equipment that create a barrier between the skin and harmful substances. Making sure employees have a reduced chance of direct substance contact that can lead to chemical burns, skin irritation and skin diseases.
5) Discourage the use of Fake PPE safety equipment
Counterfeit PPE safety equipment is a threat to the health and safety of those employed in the construction industry. Fake PPE health and safety equipment will not meet the necessary standards to protect against workplace risks and will not have a verified CE marking. Popular equipment such as hard hats, ear defenders and safety eyewear are commonly reproduced cheaply, without certification, for a profit.
PPE safety equipment should be tested against stringent safety measures. CE approved health & safety equipment meets and exceeds these performance requirements and will protect individuals from hazards. Employers and employees should take confidence in knowing their PPE can be an effective final protective measure.
Safety leaders should put their trust in suppliers that stock only CE approved PPE safety equipment that meets all necessary regulations.
6) Stay Up to Date with the Latest Regulations
By purchasing PPE safety wear from trusted manufacturers that specialise in protective health & safety equipment of the highest standard, you can be confident that you are staying up to date with the latest PPE safety regulations set out by approved officials.
7) Reduce Downtime and Avoid Injury Claims
As the provision and implementation of suitable PPE and supply of appropriate training is a legal requirement, failure to comply can result in employees becoming injured or ill. These injuries/illnesses lead to downtime from employees which can hinder work on site and if the employee feels they were injured because of negligence, they can file injury claims against employers.
Encouraging employers to use PPE safety and providing them with comfortable, well-fitted protective equipment is a positive step toward reducing downtime and injury claims.
8) Improves awareness
Knowing why health & safety equipment is used and being trained in how it should be used can increase an individual’s awareness of the risks that come with working in the construction industry.
A lot of injuries occur on construction projects as a result of negligence and not being aware of the risks (as well as a lack of protection). It is the duty of the employer to ensure that employees are provided with information, instruction and training as is adequate on the PPE they will need to use.
Confidence in using PPE is also necessary to use it properly and this can come from training. After all, when worn incorrectly, PPE safety is ineffective.
If employees know the risks, they also learn what they need to do to stop them and can see the consequences.
9) Employee Willingness to use PPE safety wear
There are plenty of consequences of not wearing PPE health and safety equipment and one way they can be prevented is by a dutiful willingness to wear PPE safety wear when required.
There are only three grounds on which the use of PPE can be rejected:
- If a medical condition is present that makes wearing PPE uncomfortable or harmful (an alternative MUST still be found)
- Ill-fitting PPE that compromises safety
- If the individual is a Sikh who wears a turban – they are exempt from wearing head protection when working on construction sites (other PPE safety must still be worn when required)
Outside of this, all employees should wear PPE when the task or environment requires it. If employees are willing to wear PPE and understand the risks then there is less chance of issues with health and safety on site. Getting employees to willingly wear PPE doesn’t need to be a hassle. Lead by example, involve employees in purchasing PPE safety equipment, always make sure employees are aware of the risks and use signage on-site to remind those employees that forget.
There is a bigger picture of the use of PPE safety wear in construction than merely supplying suitable PPE to employees. By improving the health and safety measures on-site, site managers and employers are also encouraging health for businesses (injuries on site can have a direct implication on financial and reputational health) and improving the quality of the longer-term health of people.
This article was written by the Technical Team at BETAFIT PPE LTD.