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We've got a bone to pick with PPE: Making PPE sustainable and inclusive

  • Publish Date: Posted about 1 year ago
  • Author: Ben Taylor

​The construction industry is notorious for being one of the most dangerous industries to work in. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), approximately 20% of worker fatalities in private industry in 2019 were in construction. This is where personal protective equipment (PPE) comes in. PPE is designed to protect workers from hazards such as falls, flying debris, and electric shock. However, PPE also has its drawbacks. In this blog post, we'll explore the challenges of PPE in the construction industry and how we can make it more sustainable and inclusive.

We've Got a Bone to Pick with PPE

One of the biggest challenges of PPE in the construction industry is that it can be uncomfortable and cumbersome to wear. Workers may be required to wear hard hats, safety glasses, earplugs, gloves, and safety shoes all at the same time. This can lead to discomfort and heat exhaustion, which can be especially dangerous in hot weather conditions. Workers may also be tempted to remove their PPE to alleviate discomfort, which puts them at risk for injury.

Another challenge of PPE is that it can be expensive. Employers are responsible for providing their workers with the necessary PPE, which can be a significant financial burden, especially for small businesses. Additionally, PPE may need to be replaced frequently, which adds to the cost.

Making PPE Sustainable

To make PPE more sustainable, we need to consider the materials used to make it. Many PPE items, such as gloves and safety glasses, are made from plastic, which is not biodegradable and contributes to landfill waste. Employers can explore options for PPE made from more sustainable materials, such as biodegradable plastics or recycled materials. Additionally, employers can encourage workers to properly dispose of their PPE to minimize waste.

Another way to make PPE more sustainable is to explore ways to extend its lifespan. This can be done by providing workers with high-quality PPE that is durable and can withstand wear and tear. Employers can also invest in PPE maintenance programs to ensure that PPE is properly cleaned and cared for, which can extend its lifespan and reduce the need for frequent replacements.

Making PPE Inclusive

To make PPE more inclusive, we need to consider the unique needs of different workers. For example, workers with disabilities may require specialized PPE, such as hearing aids that can be worn with earplugs or hard hats that can accommodate communication devices. Employers can work with their workers to identify their individual needs and provide them with the necessary PPE to do their job safely and comfortably.

Additionally, employers can consider the cultural and religious beliefs of their workers when selecting PPE. For example, some workers may have religious or cultural objections to wearing certain types of PPE, such as safety glasses or hard hats. Employers can work with their workers to find alternative PPE that meets their safety needs while also respecting their beliefs.

PPE is an essential tool for protecting workers in the construction industry, but it also has its challenges. By making PPE more sustainable and inclusive, we can ensure that workers are protected while also reducing waste and considering the unique needs of different workers. Employers can play a crucial role in making these changes by investing in high-quality, sustainable PPE and working with their workers to identify their individual needs. With these changes, we can create a safer and more equitable work environment for everyone in the construction industry.

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