by Mark Stromme
January 25, 2012

Test your knowledge of OSHA’s personal protective equipment (PPE) standards- the reuirements, hazards, training, and types 

The responsibility of protecting employees falls on both the employer and workers. The employer should provide all the necessary safety precautions—safety equipment, training, first-aid facilities and even vision and hearing screening programs—but employees must take safety seriously and use the protections provided.

Employers and workers should first eliminate any environmental hazards, and if that cannot be done, then engineering or administrative controls should be used to reduce the hazards to acceptable levels. If these controls do not work, personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used.

 

Personal Protective Equipment

The PPE rules for construction begin in the Code of Federal Regulations (29 CFR 1926.28). OSHA indicates that employers must require employees to wear appropriate PPE in all operations where an exposure to hazardous conditions exists and wearing PPE could reduce those hazards. 

OSHA requires additional protections for using, selecting and maintaining personal protective and lifesaving equipment under Subpart E of the regulations.

In Subpart E (29 CFR 1926.95), OSHA specifies that certain equipment should be provided, used and maintained, including “…personal protective equipment for eyes, face, head and extremities, protective clothing, respiratory devices and protective shields and barriers.” 

 

Hazards of Using PPE

Using PPE can create significant worker hazards, such as heat stress, physical and psychological stress and impaired vision, mobility and communication. Common hazards include gloves getting caught in tools or machinery, safety glasses getting dirty or fogged up and missing warning commands due to the use of hearing protection. 

In general, wearing more PPE protection results in more risks. For any given situation, select equipment and clothing that provides an adequate level of protection. Both over-protection and under-protection can be hazardous and should be avoided.

 

PPE Training

Employees must receive training before using PPE. OSHA requires employers to instruct employees about any applicable regulations to make sure they recognize and avoid unsafe conditions to control or eliminate any exposure to illness or injury.

More information about training can be found in OSHA’s 1926.20(b) and 1926.21(b)(2) standards.

 

Types of PPE

The typical kinds of PPE needed and used in construction work include the following:

Eye protection—goggles, safety glasses, face shields and welding helmets

Head protection—hard hats to protect against falling objects and striking the head 

Hearing protection—earplugs and earmuffs (the most common hearing protection devices)

Foot protection—safety-toe footwear to protect against crushing injuries

 

Eye, head and foot protection must meet applicable American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards.

These types of PPE protect against hazards present on many jobsites. Other types of PPE not used as frequently on some construction sites should be used when necessary, such as respiratory protection, fall protection, high-visibility clothing and life jackets, ring buoys and lifesaving skiffs.

 

Respiratory Protection

Respirators should be used to protect employees against hazardous atmospheres containing particulates/dusts (silica), vapors and gases (carbon monoxide), physical agents (radioactive particles), biological agents (mold spores) and “Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health” (IDLH) atmospheres (oxygen deficiency).

General respiratory protection requirements can be found in 29 CFR 1926.55—which addresses gases, vapors, fumes, dusts and mists. Employees exposed to any material or substance at a concentration above the permissible exposure limit (PEL) specified in Appendix A of 1926.55 must be protected.

To comply with the standards, use administrative (i.e., employee shift changes) or engineering (i.e., ventilation) controls first. If these controls do not achieve full compliance, use protective equipment.

 

Fall Protection in construction

The leading cause of fatalities in construction work comes from falls. Each year, more than 100 construction workers die from falls, and thousands of workers incur injuries. OSHA’s fall protection rule deals with both employee and equipment issues to protect workers.

The rule sets a uniform threshold height of 6 feet, which means you must protect your employees from fall hazards whenever they work 6 feet or more above a lower level.

Personal fall arrests systems can be used when guardrails and safety net systems cannot be provided (see Subpart M—Fall Protection). 

OSHA’s standard 1926.104 includes requirements for safety belts, lifelines and lanyards. These items should not be used to lift objects or material. 

 

High-Visibility Clothing

Employees working in and around traffic face serious hazards. High-visibility clothing should be used to protect these workers. The American National Standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel (ANSI/ISEA 107-1999) establishes criteria for high-visibility worker apparel. 

Several sections in OSHA construction regulations require high visibility clothing. In the excavation standard 1926.651(d), OSHA indicates, “Employees exposed to public vehicular traffic shall be provided with, and shall wear, warning vests or other suitable garments marked with or made of reflectorized or high-visibility material.” 

In the signaling standard 1926.501(a), OSHA states, “Signaling by flaggers and the use of flaggers, including warning garments worn by flaggers shall conform to Part VI of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, (1988 Edition, Revision 3 or the Millennium Edition), which are incorporated by reference in §1926.200(g)(2).”

 

Life Jackets, Ring Buoys and Lifesaving Skiffs

Construction work performed over or near water has regulations established by 29 CFR 1926.106 to prevent drowning. Some of the following requirements are contained in this rule:

Provide employees with a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket or buoyant work vests. 

Inspect the buoyant work vests or life preservers (prior to and after each use) for defects. 

Make ring buoys readily available for emergency rescue operations. 

Provide at least one lifesaving skiff at locations where employees work over or adjacent to water. 

Using PPE properly at the jobsite increases the chances for employees to go home uninjured at the end of the workday. 

But remember, no single combination of PPE can protect against all hazards, which means this protection should be used in conjunction with other protective methods.