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Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)



One of the most important safe work practices for construction workers is to always use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for the job being performed. Inappropriate PPE is not PPE at all, and can actually increase the likelihood of an accident or illness.

The employer is ultimately responsible for requiring employees to wear appropriate PPE in all construction activities where there is an exposure to hazards or where required by OSHA regulations.

PPE Training

PPE training should include all of the following topics:

  • head protection
  • hearing protection
  • eye and face protection
  • foot protection
  • respiratory protection
  • working over or near water

Head Protection


Check out this short audio clip by Dan Clark of the Hard hat selection and care is critical to safety. It’s your brain. Keep it in a good bucket. Hear about the Types and Classes of safety helmets in this podcast. Dan Clark describes Type I and Type II hard hats, and how they are designed for impacts from the top and side.

Serious head injuries can result from blows to the head where there is a potential for objects falling from above, bumps to the head from fixed objects, or accidental head contact with electrical hazards.

Protective helmets must do three things:

  1. resist penetration
  2. absorb the shock of a blow
  3. protect against electrical shock


Employees working in areas where there is a danger of head injury from impact, falling or flying objects, or electrical shock and burns should take the following precautions to help protect the head:

  • Hard hats must meet the specifications contained in American National Standards Institute, Z89.1-2014, Head Protection.
  • Hard hats should be routinely inspected for dents, cracks or deterioration.
  • Hard hats should be replaced after a heavy blow or electrical shock.
  • Hard hats should always be maintained in good condition.
  • Adjust the suspension so there's 1¼ inches between the top of your head and the shell. (If the manufacturer's directions are different, follow those.)
  • Never carry anything (like tools or cigarettes) inside your hardhat while you're wearing it.

Eye and Face Protection


Thousands of people are blinded each year from work-related eye injuries that could have been prevented with the proper selection and use of eye and face protection. Eye injuries alone cost more than $300 million per year in lost production time, medical expenses, and worker compensation.

You may need eye and face protection when there's danger from:

  • flying particles (from saws, drills, etc.)
  • splashes
  • dust
  • protruding or projecting parts
  • chemical vapors or fumes
  • bright light or ultraviolet rays (from welding, lasers, etc.)

Check out this short audio clip by Dan Clark of the Dan Clark covers first aid for four types of eye injuries: Specks of debris in the eyes, chemical exposures and burns, flying or falling object impacts and cuts or punctures.

Electromagnetic (EM) Radiation

The most familiar form of electromagnetic (EM) radiation is sunshine, which provides light and heat. Sunshine consists primarily of radiation in infrared (IR), visible, and ultraviolet (UV) frequencies. Lasers also emit EM radiation in these “optical frequencies.”



Laser stands for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.” The laser produces an intense, directional beam of light. The most common cause of laser-induced tissue damage is thermal in nature, where the tissue proteins are denatured due to the temperature rise following absorption of laser energy.

Because some lasers can damage eyes and skin:

  • Only qualified, trained employees can install, adjust, and operate laser equipment.
  • Laser equipment operators must be able to show proof that they are qualified when they are operating laser equipment.
  • Employees who work in areas where potential exposure to laser light greater than five milliwatts exists must be provided with anti-laser eye protection.
  • Areas in which lasers are used must have laser warning signs.
  • The laser beam must not be directed at employees.
  • Laser equipment must have a label that indicates maximum output.

General Precautions

  • Wear safety glasses or face shields anytime work operations can cause foreign objects to get into the eye such as during welding, cutting, grinding, nailing (or when working with concrete and/or harmful chemicals or when exposed to flying particles).
  • Select eye and face protectors based on anticipated hazards.
  • Wear safety glasses or face shields when exposed to any electrical hazards including work on energized electrical systems.

Respiratory Protection

An estimated 5 million workers are required to wear respirators in 1.3 million workplaces throughout the United States. Compliance with the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard could avert hundreds of deaths and thousands of illnesses annually.

Respirators must meet the requirements in OSHA standar 1910.134(g) and protect workers against insufficient oxygen environments, harmful dusts, fogs, smokes, mists, gases, vapors, and sprays. These hazards may cause cancer, lung impairment, diseases, or death.

In order to protect your health, effective engineering and work practice controls such as ventilation, wet methods, and confinement of the task must be established. However, if these measures are not feasible, or not protective enough, appropriate respirators must be used.

When respirators are required, a written program must be implemented covering many important elements such as respirator selection procedures, fit testing for tight-fitting respirators, maintenance protocol, medical evaluations, and training. The employer must also designate a program administrator to oversee the respiratory protection program and conduct required testing and training.

Respirator Types

The appropriate respirator will depend on the contaminant(s) to which you are exposed and the protection factor (PF) required. Required respirators must be NIOSH-approved and medical evaluation and training must be provided before use.

Particulate respirators are the simplest, most common (in construction), and least expensive, but least protective of the respirator types available. These respirators only protect against particles (e.g., dust). They do not protect against chemicals, gases, or vapors, and are intended only for low hazard levels.

respirator types

The commonly known "N-95" filtering face piece respirator or "dust mask" is another, more protective, type of particulate respirator, often used in hospitals to protect against infectious agents. Below are listed the two types of dust masks and four types of filtering and air-purifying respirators.

  • Single-strap dust masks: These are usually not NIOSH-approved. They must not be used to protect from hazardous atmospheres. However, they may be useful in providing comfort from pollen or other allergens.
  • Approved filtering face pieces: Approved filtering face pieces (dust masks) can be used for dust, mists, welding fumes, etc. They do not provide protection from gases or vapors. DO NOT USE FOR ASBESTOS OR LEAD. Instead, select from the respirators below.
  • Half-face respirators:Half-face respirators can be used for protection against most vapors, acid gases, dust or welding fumes. Cartridges/filters must match contaminant(s) and be changed periodically.
  • Full-face respirators:Full-face respirators are more protective than half-face respirators. They can also be used for protection against most vapors, acid gases, dust or welding fumes. The face-shield protects face and eyes from irritants and contaminants. Cartridges/filters must match contaminant(s) and be changed periodically.
  • Loose-fitting powered-air-purifying respirators: Loose-fitting powered-air-purifying respirators (PAPR) offer breathing comfort from a battery-powered fan which pulls air through filters and circulates air throughout helmet/hood. They can be worn by most workers who have beards. Cartridges/filters must match contaminant(s) and be changed periodically.
  • Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus. A Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) is used for entry and escape from atmospheres that are considered immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH) or oxygen deficient. They use their own air tank.

Hazards to the Hands


Wearing gloves reduces hand injury risk by at least 50 percent. But it’s important that the employer chooses the right glove for the job. It’s not enough just to protect the hands from cuts, puncture and abrasions, gloves should be comfortable, enhance dexterity and meet job-specific needs.

Employers must select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection on construction sites when workers' hands are exposed to hazards such as:

  • skin absorption of harmful substances
  • severe cuts or lacerations
  • severe abrasions
  • punctures
  • chemical burns
  • thermal burns
  • harmful temperature extremes

Generally, gloves fall into four categories:

  1. leather, canvas or metal mesh gloves
  2. fabric and coated fabric gloves
  3. chemical- and liquid-resistant gloves
  4. insulating rubber gloves

Leather, Canvas or Metal Mesh Gloves

Sturdy gloves made from metal mesh, leather or canvas provide protection against cuts and burns. Leather or canvas gloves also protect against sustained heat.

  • Leather gloves protect against sparks, moderate heat, blows, chips and rough objects.
  • Aluminized gloves provide reflective and insulating protection against heat and require an insert made of synthetic materials to protect against heat and cold.
  • Aramid fiber gloves protect against heat and cold, are cut- and abrasive-resistant and wear well.
  • Synthetic gloves of various materials offer protection against heat and cold, are cut- and abrasive-resistant and may withstand some diluted acids. These materials do not stand up against alkalis and solvents.

Fabric and Coated Fabric Gloves

Fabric and coated fabric gloves are made of cotton or other fabric to provide varying degrees of protection.

  • Fabric gloves protect against dirt, slivers, chafing and abrasions. They do not provide sufficient protection for use with rough, sharp or heavy materials. Adding a plastic coating will strengthen some fabric gloves.
  • Coated fabric gloves are normally made from cotton flannel with napping on one side. By coating the un-napped side with plastic, fabric gloves are transformed into general-purpose hand protection offering slip-resistant qualities. These gloves are used for tasks ranging from handling bricks and wire to chemical laboratory containers.

Chemical- and Liquid-Resistant Gloves

Chemical-resistant gloves are made with:

  • different kinds of rubber: natural, butyl, neoprene, nitrile and fluorocarbon (viton); or
  • various kinds of plastic: polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyvinyl alcohol and polyethylene.

These materials can be blended or laminated for better performance. As a general rule, the thicker the glove material, the greater the chemical resistance. However, thick gloves may impair grip and dexterity, having a negative impact on safety.

Insulating Rubber Gloves

Insulating rubber gloves protect against certain chemicals and physical hazards. When chemical or physical hazards are present, check with the clothing manufacturer to ensure that the material selected will provide protection against the specific hazard.

Insulating Rubber Gloves

Insulating rubber gloves protect against certain chemicals and physical hazards. When chemical or physical hazards are present, check with the clothing manufacturer to ensure that the material selected will provide protection against the specific hazard.

Electrical Insulating Gloves and Sleeves


Insulating gloves and sleeves are critical PPE for electrical work on or near exposed energized parts.

  • Insulating (rubber) gloves along with leather protectors must be worn by qualified employees within the Minimum Approach Distance to exposed energized conductors.
  • Insulating (rubber) sleeves must also be worn if the upper arms or shoulders are within the Minimum Approach Distance to other exposed energized parts.

For more information on minimum approach distances, see the OSHA eTools: Electric Power website.

Protector Gloves and Storage: To ensure worker safety and the integrity of the gloves and sleeves, insulating gloves need to be worn along with protector gloves (such as leather), and both insulating gloves and sleeves need to be stored properly when not in use. Proper storage means that gloves must not be folded and need to be kept out of excessive heat, sunlight, humidity, ozone, and any chemical or substance that could damage the rubber.

Testing and Inspection: Gloves and sleeves must be electrically tested before being issued for use. They must also be visually inspected and gloves need to be air tested for any possible defects (for example, cuts, holes, tears, embedded objects, changes in texture) before each day's use and whenever there is a reason to believe they may have been damaged. It’s best to inspect PPE and air test the gloves and sleeves before each use.

General Precautions


Use the following general precautions and best practices when using gloves on the construction site:

  • Gloves should fit snugly.
  • Workers should wear the right gloves for the job (for example, heavy-duty rubber gloves for concrete work, welding gloves for welding, insulated gloves and sleeves when exposed to electrical hazards).
  • Inspect gloves before each use to ensure they are not torn, punctured or made ineffective in any way. A visual inspection will help detect cuts or tears.
  • If appropriate, fill the gloves with water and tightly roll the cuff towards the fingers to help reveal any pinhole leaks. Gloves that are discolored or stiff may also indicate deficiencies caused by excessive use or degradation from chemical exposure.
  • Discard and replace gloves with impaired protective ability.
  • Evaluate the reuse of chemical-resistant gloves carefully, taking into consideration the absorptive qualities of the gloves. A decision to reuse chemically-exposed gloves should take into consideration the toxicity of the chemicals involved and factors such as duration of exposure, storage and temperature.

Hazards to the Legs and Feet


Construction workers who face possible foot or leg injuries from falling or rolling objects or from crushing or penetrating materials should wear protective footwear. Also, employees whose work involves exposure to hot substances or corrosive or poisonous materials must have protective gear to cover exposed body parts, including legs and feet.

If an employee's feet may be exposed to electrical hazards, non-conductive footwear should be worn. On the other hand, workplace exposure to static electricity may necessitate the use of conductive footwear.

Examples of situations in which an employee should wear foot and/or leg protection include:

  • when heavy objects such as barrels or tools might roll onto or fall on the employee's feet
  • working with sharp objects such as nails or spikes that could pierce the soles or uppers of ordinary shoes
  • exposure to molten metal that might splash on feet or legs
  • working on or around hot, wet or slippery surfaces
  • working when electrical hazards are present

Leg and foot protection choices include the following:

  • Leggings protect the lower legs and feet from heat hazards, such as molten metal or welding sparks. Safety snaps allow leggings to be removed quickly.
  • Metatarsal guards protect the instep area from impact and compression. Made of aluminum, steel, fiber or plastic, these guards may be strapped to the outside of shoes.
  • Toe guards fit over the toes of regular shoes to protect the toes from impact and compression hazards. They may be made of steel, aluminum or plastic.
  • Combination foot and shin guards protect the lower legs and feet, and may be used in combination with toe guards when greater protection is needed.
  • Safety shoes have impact-resistant toes and heat-resistant soles that protect the feet against hot work surfaces common in roofing, paving and hot metal industries. The metal insoles of some safety shoes protect against puncture wounds. Safety shoes may also be designed to be electrically conductive to prevent the buildup of static electricity in areas with the potential for explosive atmospheres. They may also be used in nonconductive atmospheres to protect workers from workplace electrical hazards.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Workers should adjust the suspension on hardhats so that there's _____.

2. Eye and face protectors should be selected based on which of the following?

3. Which of the following gloves should be used to protect against sparks, moderate heat, blows, chips and rough objects?

4. _____ and sleeves are critical PPE for electrical work on or near exposed energized parts.

5. What should be worn to protect the feet against hot work surfaces common in roofing, paving and hot metal industries?

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.