Construction workers have traditionally been viewed (accurately or not) as tall, muscular men. While that was never true of all people who’ve worked in that field over the years, it certainly isn’t now. Today, construction workers come in various shapes, sizes and genders.
That can create challenges for those who manufacture and buy personal protective equipment (PPE). One size definitely doesn’t fit all – at least properly.
The dangers of poorly fitting PPE
Wearing PPE that doesn’t fit can be hazardous to workers in a number of ways. For example:
- Safety vests, harnesses and gloves that are too big can become caught in equipment or slip off entirely.
- Helmets that are too big can drop down over someone’s eyes or fall off.
- Face masks or goggles that are too loose don’t protect a worker from dangerous chemicals and other hazards.
- Equipment and apparel that’s too small can restrain a person’s movements or cause so much discomfort that they remove it.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), about a tenth of construction workers are using one or more pieces of PPE that don’t fit properly.
New construction PPE standards
Currently, OSHA standards aren’t as stringent about PPE fit as those for some other industries. That’s why the federal agency has proposed a new rule. According to OSHA, the new rule would “require explicitly that PPE must fit workers properly,” and “make properly fitting PPE an enforceable requirement.” It states that “a clear and explicit enforceable requirement will help ensure that employers provide employees with properly fitting PPE.”
Of course, employers can and should be doing this already. PPE manufacturers have already broadened their product lines to include greater size ranges. One construction safety professional notes that employers “are more likely to get people to use [PPE] and wear it when it’s made for their size.” If a worker isn’t provided with properly fitting PPE of any kind, they can and should speak up and ask for equipment that fits them so that it does the job it needs to do – and so they can better do their job.
If you’ve suffered an injury or illness due to poorly fitting PPE – or any other reason – it’s crucial to understand the state’s workers’ compensation laws and your rights under them. If you’re having difficulty filing a claim or getting your claim approved, it can help to seek legal guidance.