Friday, January 9, 2009

Hard Hats & PPE On Construction Sites

Employers commonly inquire about when hard hats or other PPE is required by OSHA on construction sites or other workplaces. I will attempt to answer that question based upon OSHA construction industry regulations (29 CFR 1926) and OSHA's interpretations of its own regulations.

In 29 CFR Part 1926 Subpart E (Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment), §1926.95 (Criteria for personal protective equipment) states:
(a) Application. Protective equipment, including personal protective equipment for eyes, face, and head, and extremities, protective shields and barriers, providedshall be, used, and maintained...wherever it is necessary by reason of hazards of processes or environment, chemical hazards, radiological hazards, or mechanical irritants encountered in a manner capable of causing injury or impairment in the function of any part of the body through... physical contact. [Emphasis added.]
Section 1926.100 (Head protection) states:
(a) Employees working in areas where there is a possible danger of head injury from impact, or from falling or flying objects, or from electrical shock and burns, shall be protected by protective helmets. [Emphasis added.]
Under these standards, an employer must initially evaluate the activities of its employees and determine whether these hazards are reasonably foreseeable. Such employees must use appropriate PPE. Please also remember that commonly on construction sites there are multiple sub-contractors working. Each employer is responsible for providing PPE for its employees, even if the hazard is created by a different employer. Here is an example...Company A has employees on the jobsite doing outdoor work that would not normally require a hard hat. However, Company B has employees (wearing PPE) on the same jobsite that are using a crane to lift materials into place. If the employees of Company A are potentially exposed to the hazard of a falling object from the crane, then Company A must provide its employees hard hats and require them to be used.

On construction sites, employers must constantly be aware of new or changing hazards created by all persons or conditions on the jobsite. OSHA requires employers to keep their employees safe. If this means the use of PPE, then the employer must provide that PPE at no-cost to the employee and require them to properly wear that PPE while exposed to the potential hazards.

Also, note that OSHA standards set minimum safety and health requirements; they do not prohibit employers from adopting more stringent requirements.

Please note that employees should always receive appropriate construction safety training regarding work on construction sites and PPE safety training for those items they use.

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