HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru

HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION

Risk Manegement and PPE for Construction Workers

Working on a construction site is considered very dangerous and construction workers face multiple risks like accidents or occupational diseases that result from their daily working activities and environment.

The construction industry has one of the highest amounts of occupational hazards and workplace-related injuries. Due to the varied nature of each construction project, every site and the risks associated with it can be different.

It's critical to evaluate each site individually and consider all the potential accidents and risks to health and safety that can occur. Companies must take preventative measures to protect their workers, this includes providing certified and good quality protective equipment.

Risks in the construction industry

There is an endless list of occupational health and safety risks on a construction site, the main ones being physical, chemical and ergonomic.

HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru

Physical risks

  • Slips, trips and falls (same level) from tripping over objects or due to uneven ground.
  • Falls from a height from scaffolding, ladders or down to a lower level, etc.
  • Blows from falling material or objects.
  • Injuries due to impacts or entrapment with immobile objects.
  • Collisions by vehicles and machinery.
  • Cuts and punctures from tools, equipment or sharp materials, such as ceramic pieces.
  • Projection of fragments or particles at high speeds and temperatures.
  • Exposure to high-intensity noise from sounds and vibrations.

Chemical agents, harmful substances and biological hazards

Exposure to chemical agents and harmful substances like asbestos that can cause serious respiratory problems and lung diseases.

Inhalation of asbestos or dust generated in cutting activities (among others). There is also a risk of splashes to the skin and eyes.

Ergonomic risks

The construction sector is one of the industries with the highest probability of workers developing musculoskeletal disorders (back, joints and other muscle injuries) due to manual lifting, repetitive movements and frequently handling heavy tools and machinery.

Overexertion from loading and unloading heavy items like materials and equipment can damage posture. Construction workers are often exposed to extreme temperatures, poor lighting and dusty environments. The presence of flammable materials could also lead to fires and explosions.

HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru

Other risks in the sector

Exposure to ionising radiation and risks from digging tunnels, shafts, other underground work and working in close vicinity to high-voltage power lines.

Working with compressed air caissons and explosives are also risks that should be taken into account.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) in construction

As mentioned, the construction sector is a high-risk industry and according to the HSE, around 61,000 construction workers sustained non-fatal work-related injuries in 2019/2020. A shockingly high figure.

When occupational risks cannot be eliminated at the source or through collective protective measures, personal protective equipment is required to protect workers.

HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru
HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru
HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru
HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru
HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru
HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru
HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru
HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru

PPE should be selected carefully based on a risk assessment. It’s an employer's duty to protect their workers from harm.

Personal protective equipment is always the last barrier of defence in the event that risks cannot be completely eliminated by other protective measures. They must be used in conjunction with an adequate risk management plan and collective protection equipment.

Safety helmets

Head protection is one of the most important types of protection, especially in the construction industry.

Accidental knocks and scrapes, being struck by falling objects, projections, machinery or head injuries caused by slips and falls, among others, can cause very serious and irreversible injuries that can affect the rest of the body.

HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru

Helmets are made up of several elements:

  • Shell
  • Brim
  • Visor/peak
  • Harness

A number of accessories can be added to the helmet:

  • Chinstrap
  • Protective face shield or visor
  • Head torch
  • Ear defenders
HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru

There are various types of hard hats with different levels of protection. The most common for the construction industry are those that comply with EN 397 (industrial hard hats), they protect against the risks mentioned above. Also worth mentioning are:

Shock absorbing safety caps or bump caps (EN 812).

Designed to protect the wearer from impacts against hard static objects that may cause lacerations or other superficial injuries.
(They do not protect against falling or projected objects, or moving or suspended loads).

High performance helmets (EN 14052).

Superior to EN 397 industrial helmets, they have been tested more exhaustively and offer greater performance in terms of cranial protection and reducing brain, cervical spine or neck injuries to a greater extent.

HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru

Hearing protection

Did you know that for noise exposure above 85 decibels (dB) the use of hearing protection is legally required?

In general, construction workers are exposed to high levels of noise, whether from vehicles and machinery or work equipment like electric hammers or chainsaws.

Continuous exposure to 85 dB for 8 hours can cause irreversible damage to the ear canal. In fact, the use of hearing protection should even be encouraged at lower noise levels from 80 dB and upwards.

The higher the noise level, the higher the risk of injury in a shorter amount of exposure time. This is bad news for construction professionals, as much of the equipment they use regularly generates noise above 85 dB.

Always evaluate the amount of protection needed. It’s important not to overprotect more than necessary as this can limit communication and isolate the user from their environment, which could lead to them missing critical warning signals or alarms.

HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru
HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru

Ear plugs

(EN 352-2)
With or without safety cord and reusable or disposable

Safety footwear

On a construction site, there is an incredibly high risk of injuries to the lower limbs because of all the sharp objects and tools, heavy materials and moving vehicles, etc.

The feet are especially at risk from cuts, impacts due to falling objects, crushing or trapping, punctures from stepping on sharp objects, sprained or twisted ankles from slips, trips and falls, as well as thermal, chemical (corrosive or abrasive products) and electrical risks.

HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru

It is important to choose appropriate safety footwear according to the risks the user is exposed to. In particular, they must provide the following properties:

  • Reinforced sole against punctures.
  • Safety toe cap against impacts of at least 200 J and compression damage.
  • Slip resistance (SRA, SRB or SRC) to prevent slips and falls.
  • Comfort, even over long periods of time.

Sometimes anti-static or ESD safety shoes may be necessary to discharge static electricity and protect the user from electrical hazards.

The type of safety footwear required on a construction site depends on the number of hazards and the level of protection necessary, safety boots provide the most protection and even support the ankle to avoid sprains, chemical splashes, etc. Safety shoes are another great option when slightly less protection is needed.

HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru

Eye protection

The eyes are very sensitive and at risk of coming into contact with projectiles and hazardous substances. The repercussions can be extremely serious and irreversible.

For this reason, it’s essential to use approved and good quality eye protection to shield the eyes, especially in the construction industry.

There are many potential eye hazards on a construction site, including:

  • Projectiles - impacts or projection of particles (dust, concrete, metal and wood, etc.) at high speeds and temperatures.
  • Chemical - splashes of chemical substances and fumes.
  • Radiation - ultraviolet rays from sunlight or welding.

There are various different types of eye protection depending on how much of the eyes and face need protecting and the potential eye hazards (Standard EN 166):

HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru
HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru

Safety glasses

They provide greater ventilation and comfort in terms of weight and wearability. Available with adjustable arms and temples to reduce pressure on the head.

Safety goggles

Offers greater protection, better all-around vision and adjustability. Some models are also compatible with prescription glasses.

HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru
HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru

Safety over glasses

A comfortable and cost-efficient way to protect both the eyes and prescription glasses at the same time.

Welding goggles and helmets

Protection against optical radiation and welding hazards of all kinds.

Workwear and high visibility clothing

On a construction site, high visibility clothing is essential to facilitate visibility between workers and avoid potential accidents, especially in areas where vehicles and heavy machinery are involved.

The high visibility reflective clothing should always be worn on top of work clothing to attract attention.

HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru

There are many types of hi-vis clothing to choose from depending on the weather and environment:

  • Hi-vis vests, T-shirts or shorts for warmer conditions.

  • Hi-vis fleece jumpers, jackets, trousers and coveralls for colder working conditions.

Workwear, in general, should be fitted and never loose or baggy to minimise the risk of snagging or getting trapped.

It should of course be comfortable, breathable, not restrict movement and be hard-wearing and durable.

Work gloves

Protective gloves, like all other PPE, should be made based on an assessment based on a worker's activities, risks and exposure time.

Will they be in contact with abrasive chemicals? Will they be working with sharp materials or tools?

Safety is extremely important and a primary concern, but it’s not the only thing that matters. Work gloves need to be breathable, comfortable, flexible and dexterous.

Grip and fit are also essential as they help prevent hand fatigue during use.

HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru

There are different types of safety gloves to protect construction workers against the hazards they face on a daily basis:

  • Mechanical (EN 388) - Cut, abrasion, scratch, puncture and impact protection caused by handling sharp materials, tools or crushing hazards, etc.
  • Chemicals or harmful substances (EN 374) - Splashes or immersions that can cause injury and skin diseases, as can occur when working with cement. Gloves may be reusable or disposable.
  • Electrical (EN 60903) - If there is a risk of contact with electric current.
  • Thermal (EN 407) - Protection against heat, flames and in certain cases molten metal.

In some cases, it may be necessary to use vibration gloves (EN 10819). Disposable gloves can also be used on top of safety gloves to protect them from chemicals and to provide greater hygiene and durability.

HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru

Respiratory protective equipment

It is essential to prevent pollutants such as gases, harmful vapours, paint particles and dust from entering the respiratory system.

When looking for respiratory protection, whether reusable or disposable, they must always be certified and it’s important to understand that each type of mask or respirator is made for a specific purpose and to protect the user from a specific risk.

Special attention should also be paid to the materials, quality and fit to ensure both safety and comfort. Respiratory protection equipment that supplies oxygen may be required in some cases, like oxygen deficient environments.

The most common types of respiratory protection are:

HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru

Half face or full face respirator masks with filters

Reusable masks with changeable filters (P1, P2, P3).

Typically designed for compatibility with other PPE.

Depending on the filter, they can offer protection against gases, organic or inorganic vapours, acids, ammonia or solid or liquid particles, among others.

Self-filtering face masks or dust masks

  • Reusable (R).
  • Disposable (NR).
  • With or without an exhalation valve.
  • Protection levels FFP1, FFP2, FFP3 (according to EN 149:2001+A1:2009).
HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru

Signposting of risk areas

Maintaining and promoting safety on a construction site does not only depend on using the correct type of PPE.

Traffic routes must always be kept clean and visible and passageways must be kept clear, unobstructed and well lit. Isolation measures like restriction barriers are essential for safety in the workplace!

Using industrial safety solutions like permanent or temporary retractable belt barriers, together with adequate signage is an excellent way to restrict access and mark hazards or dangerous areas to prevent potential accidents.

Typically used near moving machinery and vehicles where there is a risk of impacts from being hit, collisions and being crushed or run over.

In addition to this, any areas where materials are stored should also be clearly marked, especially when flammable, explosive or chemical substances are involved, in which case they should always have the corresponding labels and safety data sheets.

HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CONSTRUCTION | Safeguru

Each piece of equipment must be certified and meet regulated safety standards.

There are specific standards that apply to each type of personal protective equipment, this is because each type of PPE protects against different risks, works in distinct ways and goes through unique tests and trials.

You may also like:

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – What is PPE and why is it used?


Do you need help choosing the right type of personal protective equipment?

Call 01422 774376 from 9:00 to 17:30 or send an email to customer@safeguru.co.uk.

A member of our team will get back to you shortly.

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