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Does The Construction Industry Need Better PPE Standards?

On Behalf of | Workers' Compensation

The construction industry is arguably one of the most-regulated industries in the United States of America. In Chicago and elsewhere, there are local ordinances governing construction companies and major projects. There are also state and federal standards intended to protect vulnerable construction workers from on-the-job injuries.

Yet, even with numerous statutes enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), construction remains one of the most dangerous professions in the country. Workers get hurt in large numbers every year, and construction is consistently one of the deadlier professions.

Recently, OSHA proposed a change regarding the rules for personal protective equipment (PPE) used in the construction sector. Does this new rule indicate that current equipment standards are not enough for worker protection?

PPE often doesn’t work for everyone

Despite numerous rules requiring different types of PPE in different construction scenarios, the gear that workers use does not always adequately protect them from the worst-case scenario. At some companies, lax enforcement of PPE requirements might mean that workers do not have the necessary gear in place at the time that an incident occurs. And even when workers consistently use their safety gear, the gear may fail because it does not fit them properly. All too often, PPE is too large or too small to adequately protect someone in an emergency situation.

Companies that provide workers with PPE often fail to keep an adequate assortment of different sizes on hand. Taller, shorter or particularly slender workers may find that their PPE does not fit them properly. When companies require that workers provide their own protective gear, those overseeing projects may fail to check that the gear fits properly and appropriately serves its intended purpose.

Those oversights might ultimately lead to a worker getting hurt. The new proposed rules require that companies provide an assortment of PPE sizes and verify that safety-critical gear fits a worker properly even if they bring their own equipment to work. OSHA does not anticipate that such changes would impose massive new expenses on companies, although it may slightly increase operational costs.

When workers get hurt while performing construction work, they may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, regardless of whether they were wearing PPE at the time that they sustained harm. Applying for workers’ compensation benefits is a reasonable reaction to an injury incurred at a Chicago construction site.