From head to toe, personal protective equipment is required to be worn at all times within a construction site. We all know the bare minimum: hard hats and steel toe boots. However, there is a range of other protective gear that workers and contractors alike should be familiar with.
Dan Greenhalgh, ENM Construction’s co-founder, points out the importance of proper equipment maintenance. “There’s an injury around the corner at all times on a construction site. It can be gruesome, and people need to be reminded of that,” adds Greenhalgh.
For most construction agencies, there’s a full-time safety coordinator, whose everyday job is to ensure the safety of all workers who are wearing the safety equipment. Let’s step in the shoes of a safety coordinator and examine how protective equipment should be maintained. For ease, we’ll do this from head to toe.
On sites, workers protect their heads for several reasons, which includes:
- impact from falling objects
- thermal insulation for the head
- protection from entanglement and laceration
For this amount of protection, it is a wonder that maintaining safety hats is quite simple. Keep it clean. Use soap and warm water to regularly clean headgear and then air dry it. For storage, keep it out of heat or out of places where it can be damaged.
Part of maintaining equipment is checking its viability. For hard hats, it primarily includes checking if the straps are worn out or if the hat itself is cracked or dented. As a general rule, if a hard hat experienced a heavy blow, replace it, regardless of the visibility of any marks. That’s just being safe.
Cleanliness will be a recurring theme in these tips as dirty lenses can lead to poor vision, which then lead to accidents—the very thing we are working to avoid.
Maintain lens clarity by regularly washing it with mild soap and warm water. Always remember to wash the lenses with water first before wiping them to avoid scratches. As with other equipment, replacements are in order if they show signs of wear and tear—a dented frame, minute scratches, pitting, loose or twisted headbands—all of these can impair vision and cause accidents.
Hearing protection can be quite tricky as individual workers might need a different level of protection depending on their health and/or their work environment. Nevertheless, maintaining said equipment is the same.
Earmuffs are to be washed every day using a damp cloth. Once they lose their resilience, replace the cushions. The same goes for reusable earplugs. Wash them every day. Emphasis on the word “reusable” as it is very unhygienic to use disposable earplugs more than once. Wipe headband plugs after every use and store them properly taking care not to bend or twist them.
Although not all sites need respirators or other breathing aids, it would still do well to understand how they should be properly maintained. As with the others mentioned previously, the key is keeping them clean.
Workers need to disinfect respirators and other breathing equipment after every use. Store in a safe, dry place ensuring that the respirator’s rubber and plastic parts are in a normal position.
Personal protective equipment maintenance is not that hard once you realize that it’s dependent on two important things: cleanliness and proper storage. Once you realize this, like Dan Greenhalgh and other industry experts, you’ll be stepping up your workers’ safety ensuring that they can do their jobs with less fear and more confidence.