Wear your personal protective equipment at all times
Every construction site worker needs PPE, it's your last line of defence against the many hazards and risks found on site.
That's why personal protective equipment (PPE) is always required in some form or another on construction sites.
Many sites even display signs along the line of "No boots, no hard hat, no job". So forgetting your PPE could cost you a days work, or even get you kicked off the project.
But more importantly, not wearing your PPE, or not using it correctly could cost you your health, or even your life.
Why is PPE so important in construction work?
Because construction work is high risk, and even with all the other control measures that should be in place to protect you from these risks, PPE will always be an important control measure.
Risks should be controlled to avoid, for example, materials falling from overhead, but if those control measures fail, your hard hat could be the only thing left to protect you.
PPE is intended to protect you from risks, which cannot be eliminated or guarded against by other more effective means.
PPE is defined as "all equipment (including clothing affording protection against the weather) which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work and which protects him against one or more risks to his health or safety". This can include safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses.
Your employer must assess the work you do and take all reasonable steps to eliminate or reduce risks if he decides that some risk still remains he must provide you with PPE.
While your employer has a duty to provide you with PPE, you also have a responsibility and there are certain rules you should obey in relation to PPE use.
Here are the 10 rules of PPE use on construction sites:
1. You have a duty to wear any PPE provided by your employer
Your employer has a duty, not only to provide you with PPE but also to see that you wear it. That hi-viz vest isn't going to get you noticed hanging up in the site office, but it will help make you visible on your back!
You must wear the PPE provided, it's the law.
2. You must wear and use the PPE in the way it was intended
When you are issued with (or purchase PPE) make sure it fits you and is compatible with other items you will be wearing.
Don't wear your hard hat too loose, or wear your hi-viz under a coat - if it's not serving its purpose, it's almost as bad as not wearing it at all.
3. Report it if PPE doesn’t fit correctly
A common reason for PPE non-compliance is that PPE is too loose, or too tight, or uncomfortable. If you are issued with PPE that doesn't fit, don't just take it off, report it and get another size.
4. PPE must be suitable for the risk and the job at hand
What use is a dust mask if you are being exposed to harmful gases that float right through the filter. Not much! Don't just wear PPE for the sake of it, check that it's the right equipment for the job. If it’s not – report it.
5. PPE must not itself create a new risk
PPE is there to reduce risk, not increase it. If your PPE is hindering your work, for example, making you work in an awkward posture or preventing a quick escape in the event of an emergency – report it.
6. Never abuse PPE
You have a duty to take care of the PPE and not to abuse it. For example, throwing your hard hat on the floor will weaken the structure, or not changing filters or fitting the wrong parts will prevent PPE working effectively.
Damage to PPE only puts you in more danger.
7. Check before taking PPE off-site
You have no right to take the PPE off-site unless your employer says you can. Otherwise, you must return it to the appropriate storage place after use.
8. Ask for training when needed
If you are unsure about how to use PPE (e.g. breathing apparatus) ask for training first. Some PPE is straightforward, e.g. wearing safety boots or hi-viz, but some can be more complex, e.g. harnesses and lanyards, respiratory masks etc. You must be adequately trained for the PPE you use.
9. Make sure PPE is maintained
If there is anything wrong with the PPE provided e.g. worn out, broken, missing, In need of maintenance or cleaning etc. you must report it for replacement or repair by an authorised person. Never carry out makeshift repairs yourself, and always use manufacturer recommended parts.
10. Use compatible PPE
Make sure multiple items of PPE worn together are compatible with each other. For example, will those ear defenders fit with your hard hat?
Remember, the law does not expect your boss to be psychic, and they may not always notice an issue or know when someone has removed an item of PPE on site. If you know of a problem regarding PPE or a risk that you need guarding against then tell your supervisor immediatley!