According to statistics released by WorkSafe, injuries on housing building sites are costing the construction industry more than $17million a year. More than 20 Victorian tradies injuries a week were reported on housing constructions sites last year.
In order to reduce these skyrocketing figures it is important that both employers, employees and self-employed tradespeople comply with workplace health and safety policies. One such policy which can significantly reduce the number of injuries on construction sites is the use of PPE.
Personal Protective Equipment is clothing or equipment designed to control risks to health and safety in the workplace. Examples of PPE are:
- Ear plugs & ear muffs for hearing protection
- Sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful effects of the sun
- Hard hats, helmets & sun hats for head protection
- Respirators, face masks & cartridge filters for breathing protection
- Safety Boots for foot protection
- High-visibility garments, thermal wear, overalls, aprons & safety harnesses for overall body protection
- Reflective vests & fluoro jackets for protection of your abdomen and upper body
- Goggles & Safety Glasses for eye protection
As an employee in the construction industry you have a legal obligation to adhere to your employer’s health and safety requirements, including use of PPE if instructed by your employer. Refusal to cooperate with these safety policies can result in disciplinary action or prosecution.
Employers have a responsibility to pay for and provide PPE and employees must utilise it as required.
Be vigilant on site and if you see a co-worker not using the PPE provided when they should be, warn them of the risk they are taking and immediately tell your manager.
PPE provide the least effective solution to hazards on a construction site because it doesn’t address the hazard but rather provides a layer of protection against it. It is still helpful in shielding workers from injury. Therefore it should not be the only control measure implemented but should be used in conjunction with other safety measures.
There are various circumstances that may arise on site that can be prevented or minimised by wearing personal protective equipment. Circumstances that warrant the use of PPE include:
- Where there is a risk of noise induced hearing loss, employers should provide hearing protection. The need for such hearing protection equipment such as ear plugs will be assessed by conducting noise surveys in the affected areas.
- Workers that are required to work outdoors should be provided with protective clothing and sunscreen suitable for protection from sun damage, especially workers who are exposed to the sun’s harmful rays for long periods of time and are at risk of sun burn and skin cancer due to direct exposure to harmful UV rays. Radiation from long hours of outdoor work can be reduced by providing hats, long sleeves/trousers and an adequate supply of sunscreen.
- When there is a possibility that a person may be struck on the head by a falling object or their head is vulnerable to injury in any way head protection in the form of a safety helmet must be worn.
- Hazards such as flying particles, dust, splashing substances, harmful gases, vapours, aerosols, and high intensity radiation from welding operations warrant and necessitate eye protection due to risk of eye injury or loss.
- Respiratory protection should be provided after all other practicable measures have been taken to provide control measures to ensure that no worker is exposed to an atmosphere that is or may be harmful to health.
- Workers operating near moving traffic or moving plant and equipment should wear high visibility safety vests to reduce the risk of injury associated with not being seen and being hit or run over by machinery or construction vehicles.
- Hand protection should be provided where there is a hazard associated with a potential for hand injury, such as working with certain tools. The list of hazards that injure hands will be compiled for each workplace and suitable hand protection should be provided to minimise risk.
- Safety /Protective footwear should be provided by employers where the nature of the work exposes the employee to risk of injury to feet. On a construction site, all workers have the risk of injuring their feet.
While employers do have the responsibility of providing workers with PPE, it is the responsibility of workers to follow the workplace health and safety policies and regulations as instructed by employers… this is covered in our White Card training course. This includes utilising PPE as instructed. Workers should not charge employees for PPE, as they are required to provide it by law. Employers must also provide the necessary training and instruction on use of PPE. Workers who fail to utilise PPE as required are not only making themselves eligible for disciplinary action and prosecution, but even more serious they are putting their lives at risk.