Safety Equipment Use in Construction on the Rise

A new survey of construction safety professionals in the private and public sector finds that safety equipment use and awareness in heavy construction continue to rise, even though many worker remain underprotected.

The study, from the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA), tracked safety equipment use and awareness. Responses from 204 safety professionals in the construction industry indicated that between 2001 and 2004, workers increased their use of nine out of 10 types of personal protective equipment (PPE) hard hats, safety shoes/boots, protective eyewear, gloves, fall protection, hearing protection, respirators, protective clothing and face shields. The safety vest was the only type of PPE that declined in use in heavy construction during that time period.

"Hard hats, safety vests and safety shoes and boots continue to be the most commonly used types of PPE, with more than two-thirds of construction workers wearing them when needed," said Jim McKeen, president of Strategic Marketing Associates, which conducted the survey. "Face shields, protective coveralls and respirators are regularly worn when needed by the smallest percentages, about 45 percent each. However, those three PPE types all showed significant increases from the earlier studies.

Safety leaders also were asked to rate the value of PPE in minimizing the risk of accident or injury in comparison with five other protective measures: training and education, OSHA compliance, barriers and cones, signs and lights and flaggers. Two measures PPE and OSHA compliance showed an increase in relative importance.

Survey respondents were asked why workers do not use PPE more regularly. The main reason cited was "employers do not require or enforce use." "Equipment not available or provided" was also shown to be a significant factor for why PPE is not used more regularly.

"We are encouraged by the upward trend in PPE use in heavy construction," said ISEA President Dan Shipp, "but we are concerned that the level of use is still below what it should be."

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