How to Choose the Right Personal Protective Equipment in the Construction Industry

How to Choose the Right Personal Protective Equipment in the Construction Industry

The construction industry continues to lead statistics for workplace accidents and fatalities. Aside from strengthening safety protocols and procedures, employers need to be ready to provide high-quality personal protective equipment (PPE) to their crews. 

In this article, we take a deep dive into the considerations for choosing the right gear for your team and how to ensure it is being used properly.

Start by Identifying Hazards Specific to Your Workplace

The purpose of personal protective equipment is to minimize your crew’s exposure to common hazards on construction sites. In some cases, those hazards can cause serious illness, injuries, or even death. Protecting your crews with the help of PPE starts with identifying the specific hazards they are exposed to. 

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), some of the most common workplace hazards include exposure to “chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, and other hazards.” Not all of them necessarily apply to each job site, but without a thorough risk assessment, it is not easy for employers to choose the right PPE. 

What constitutes appropriate protection may also change between project sites and may vary depending on a crew member’s specific role within the company. The point is there are hardly any one-size-fits-all solutions, and nothing replaces an individual risk assessment at the start of a project. 

Understanding Regulatory Requirements

Aside from job site-specific considerations, employers also need to consider regulatory requirements. For the construction industry, OSHA’s regulation 29 CFR 1926 and its subparts hold all the relevant information employers need to be aware of and adhere to. 

The regulation begins by clarifying that it is the employer’s responsibility to provide PPE in any situation where workers may be exposed to hazardous environments or materials. Subpart C then addresses more specific considerations. Crew members are allowed to supply their own PPE, and many seasoned construction workers will own hard hats, protective gloves, goggles, and other equipment. 

However, allowing employees to use their own gear does not release employers from their responsibilities. The company still needs to ensure that the gear is adequate, well maintained, sanitary, and of safe design. Aside from those generic regulations, OSHA’s policies then go into detail for each subgroup of PPE. These subgroups include: 

  • Footwear
  • Head protection
  • Eye and face protection
  • Respiratory protection
  • Safety equipment
  • Working near water
  • Fall protection

Not all of those will apply to all contractors or all job sites. To keep crews safe, safety teams need to review regulations regularly and avoid missing critical information or updates.

Involve Workers in PPE Evaluations to Ensure Compliance

Aside from providing adequate safety gear and PPE, construction contractors also need to ensure that their crews wear the gear that has been provided and use safety equipment appropriately. Without employee buy-in, that is hard to achieve. 

So, how can the construction industry ensure employees are happy to comply with PPE regulations? One option is to allow employees to bring their own PPE. But as mentioned above, allowing this would not release employers from their responsibilities. 

Another option is to include employees in the evaluation process of PPE whenever your business is purchasing new equipment. Granted, purchase decisions will be made by your leadership team. However, involving employees in the selection process allows your management team to get feedback directly from those most affected by the decision. 

Your crews need to wear the PPE you choose for several hours each day. They understand best what would keep them safe and what will remain wearable for this amount of time. 

Consider Comfort and Fit of PPE

While safety and meeting regulatory requirements are a priority when choosing the right PPE in construction, avoid overlooking comfort and fit. Wearing a hard hat during summer, for example, is not particularly comfortable by nature. Choosing a model that protects your crews’ heads while also providing ventilation for added comfort, can make the difference between the team complying with company policies or taking shortcuts. 

The same is true for general protective wear. Of course, construction crews need to wear clothing that can withstand the rigors of the job. That does not mean their uniforms and PPE need to be uncomfortable, though. 

Fit is another consideration. Workers come in all shapes and sizes, and each one needs the same high level of protection if they are working in the same job. The easiest way to ensure your crews receive well-fitting PPE is to choose a brand that offers a wide range of sizes and other customization options. 

Evaluate Cost Considerations

Generally speaking, employers need to cover the cost of their employees’ PPE. As a result, your business needs to balance safety concerns with cost considerations. 

When your team is evaluating costs, try not to select the cheapest offer automatically. It is rarely the best or most suitable option for your team. Instead, look for high-quality equipment that will last longer. The initial outlay may be higher, but thanks to its durability, the equipment will serve your team for a longer period. 

Employers also need to understand what they need to pay for and which items need to be covered by employees. OSHA’s rules state that there are several exceptions to the rule of employer payment. Those exceptions include specific safety-toe shoes or boots, prescription safety glasses, and logging boots. 

The regulator states that these items were excluded from the provisions because they were considered to be very personal and may also be worn off the job site. Safety-toe shoes, safety glasses, and logging boots may still be required to be worn on a job site. However, employers are not required to provide them or pay for them. Understanding these exceptions can further help your company manage costs. 


Employers in the construction industry are obliged to do everything they can to keep their teams safe with the help of PPE and solid safety policies and protocols. Choosing the right PPE equipment for your crews needs to be based on a thorough understanding of the hazards they face and the most suitable PPE to mitigate those risks. In addition, allowing employees to contribute to the selection process will increase compliance. After all, it is in the interest of the entire industry to reduce accidents and fatalities on construction sites. 




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