An accident on a construction site can be devastating if not deadly, so it’s important to have the right construction safety equipment on hand at all times. Some of these safety essentials are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) while others are just smart to have available.
1. Hard Hats
Hard hats are arguably the most important and commonly used pieces of construction personal protective equipment (PPE). They protect the head from falling objects and other hazards in environments where such accidents are commonplace. The outer shell of the hat protects from the impact while the headband and straps absorb the shock. You want to choose a hat with excellent impact resistance, electrical insulation, visibility, and UV resistance.
2. Safety Glasses
Safety goggles or glasses protect the eyes from debris, dust, and other hazardous materials on the job site. Some of the most important qualities in safety goggles include impact resistance, optical clarity, ventilation, durability, UV protection, and—of course—comfort! Look for goggles that meet or exceed current impact resistance standards such as ANSI Z87.1.
3. Face Shields
A good face shield can also protect the face from flying debris, chemicals, and other hazardous materials. Whether you need goggles or a face shield will depend on the hazard level of your construction environment. Goggles offer more complete protection for the eyes, but they don’t protect other areas of the face in environments with a lot of flying debris. If dust is your main concern, safety goggles are fine. But if you’re dealing with molten metal, flying objects, light radiation, or stray chemicals, a face shield may be required.
4. Hearing Protection
Earplugs or earmuffs should be used at all times to protect the ears from loud noises and machinery. Earmuffs can provide more consistent protection than earplugs, and they may be more comfortable for some people. They can also be used in combination with earplugs for even greater protection. Custom-molded earplugs are also available.
5. First Aid Essentials
You’ll need a good first-aid kit to treat injuries on the job site, plus a bleeding control kit to stop hemorrhaging in the event of a traumatic bleeding injury. In addition, make sure that you have an FDA-approved automated external defibrillator (AED) like the Philips HeartStart Online or the LIFEPAK CR2 on site. If one of your construction workers goes into cardiac arrest (whether due to electric shock, exertion, or an underlying heart condition), the AED can be used to restart their heart and keep blood pumping while you wait for help to arrive. For more information, refer to our guide to the best AEDs for construction sites.
Respirators protect the lungs from dust, fumes, and other hazardous materials. A respirator may be required for any construction worker who works with hazardous materials or high-impact power tools (like grinders, saws, and sanders). A respirator is also recommended during demolitions and renovations and in any environment with poor air quality.
7. Safety Apparel
Aside from goggles and hard hats, certain apparel is essential for promoting safety on a construction site. High-visibility safety vests increase visibility and make workers identifiable. Safety boots with slip-resistant soles provide traction on uneven surfaces and help to prevent slips and falls—which is critical asslip-and-fall incidents account for over 35% of construction-related fatalities. Safety gloves are also essential. Depending on the types of hazards present, you may need rubber gloves, leather gloves, cut-resistant gloves, or insulated gloves.
8. Safety Nets & Harnesses
Certain safety essentials are required for people who work at elevated heights. Safety harnesses are worn around the torso and are attached to a lanyard or lifeline to prevent falls. In the event that a fall does occur, a safety net can prevent or minimize injuries.
9. Fire Extinguishers
Fires are an ever-present risk on construction sites. Because different kinds of extinguishers are designed for different types of hazards, you’ll need to have a variety on site. Make sure you have Class A (for ordinary combustible materials), Class B (for flammable and combustible liquids and oils), Class C (for active electrical equipment that has ignited), and Class D (for combustible metals) extinguishers. Less commonly, you might also need a Class K fire extinguisher, though this is more commonly used for cooking-related fires.
10. Barricades and warning signs
Last but certainlynot least, make sure you have plenty of barricades and warning signs to alert workers and the public of potential hazards. This is both a safety issue and a liability issue, and it carries as much importance as any construction safety gear you wear on your body.
Make Construction Site Safety a Priority
This list is not intended to be exhaustive, and the proper safety equipment and safety measures may vary depending on the job site and the work being performed. However, this list should serve as a solid introduction. Be sure to consult with a safety professional to determine the appropriate safety equipment for your specific construction project.
Nearly 5,000 U.S. construction workers died on the job in 2020 according to construction industry data from OSHA, but many of these tragedies are preventable with the right safety precautions. So stock up on the essentials, and don’t let a construction accident become a construction disaster.