Protective Gear for Construction Workers (With Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated May 2, 2022 | Published February 22, 2021

Updated May 2, 2022

Published February 22, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Wearing the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) when working in a construction site can keep workers protected and comfortable as they operate heavy machinery or complete complex projects. The type of PPE and materials construction workers have to wear typically depends on potential site hazards, the company's safety standards, the employees' tasks and current weather conditions. It's important to review the safety standards carefully before dressing for work at a construction site.

In this article, we review why it matters what construction workers wear and the different types of clothing and safety items that are the best at keeping employees safe and comfortable while on the job.

Related: Learn About Being a Construction Worker

Why does it matter what construction workers wear?

It's important for construction workers to wear certain items according to the safety requirements of either the job site they work on or state laws in order to stay safe and comfortable at all times. Before starting on a job, construction workers typically receive the safety standards and rules set forth by the project owner or construction manager that they must closely follow to stay protected and compliant.

When construction workers wear the correct safety gear, they reduce the risk of injuries when carrying heavy items, working on tall structures or operating dangerous machinery and tools. Wearing the right gear also keeps employees comfortable when working in extremely hot or cold weather. Being more comfortable and functional while on the job helps construction workers more productively and efficiently complete their tasks.

Related: What Are the Different Types of Construction Jobs?

What do construction workers wear?

Different types of clothing and accessory items construction workers typically wear on the job include:

Eye protection

The type of eye protection you must wear usually depends on the conditions of the site. If you're operating machinery where loose debris like wood or metal could hit you in the eye, it's best to wear proper eye protection to prevent injuries. There could also be instances where items above you could fall and land in your eyes. Common eye protection gear to wear include:

  • Face shields: These are best when you're exposed to any impact or falling debris nearby. It'll protect your eyes and your entire face.

  • Safety goggles: If the construction site has larger particles, objects or dust flying throughout, goggles are the most effective at keeping them from entering your eyes because they're enclosed on the sides for top protection.

  • Safety glasses: For safety sites with less harmful potential hazards, safety glasses can be the best option to wear as they protect the immediate areas around your eyes.

Foot protection

As a construction worker, you'll typically spend a large majority of your shift standing or moving around, so wearing effective work boots can protect your feet from potential hazards like crushing materials, punctures or slippery areas. You must always wear closed-toed shoes when operating on construction sites. Depending on the site you work on, your employer may require you to wear either simple plain toe work boots or safety toes boots. Common foot protection items to wear include:

  • Work boots: It's important to find work boots that are comfortable, waterproof, breathable and sturdy. Try to find boots with heel support, excellent grip and ankle and midsole support. It's also best to find durable boots that are water and chemical-resistant in case you're working in any wet or muddy areas.

  • Shoe covers: If you don't have water-resistant boots, you can purchase shoe covers that protect your shoe's material from getting damaged or worn down from wet or muddy areas. They're also convenient for instances when you must regularly transition from indoors to outdoors. When you arrive indoors, you can simply take off your shoe covers to ensure you don't track any mud on the floors.

Ear protection

Construction sites are typically very noisy and disruptive, which can damage your hearing. It's important to wear canal caps or preformed earplugs to prevent any damage to your eardrums. The type of earplugs you must wear typically depends on the noise levels at the site you work at and the safety guidelines your manager gives you. If it's not too loud onsite, some managers may allow you to wear foam earplugs. Larger sites may require a more soundproof and durable material for stronger protection.

Hand protection

There are several types of gloves made of materials well suited for specific construction projects and sites. It's important to wear gloves onsite to protect your hands from minor or major injuries as you pick up large objects, interact with glass or breakable materials or conduct welding tasks. Common types of hand protection employees should use include:

  • Liquid-resistant gloves: If you're handling hazardous chemicals or any types of liquid, it's best to use liquid-resistant gloves to wick away moisture. It also keeps dangerous chemicals from seeping through the gloves and damaging your skin.

  • Cotton or fabric gloves: These gloves are the most basic kinds that most construction workers use when working on low-risk projects. They protect your hands from any unexpected minor injuries that could occur on the worksite.

  • Leather gloves: It's best to use these gloves when welding to ensure your hands are safe and free from harm to protect you during all welding projects.

  • Kevlar gloves: If you're working in extreme temperatures that are either freezing or extremely hot, Kevlar gloves can protect your hands from harm and can keep you comfortable while on the job.

  • Rubber or synthetic gloves: As you work with any oils, solvents or other chemicals, it's best to use rubber or synthetic gloves to keep them from touching and hurting your bare skin.

Related: Blue-Collar Jobs For Working With Your Hands

Head and neck protection

A large majority of construction workers typically must have head protection, especially if they work on the ground level, like drivers and electricians. Helmets are often the most effective and common types of head protection to ensure falling or loose debris doesn't land on your head and cause you significant harm. Common types of head and neck protection items include:

  • Beanie: Construction workers typically wear these to keep their head and ears warm during the winter. These don't typically offer any protection from falling debris or loose items, but it keeps construction workers comfortable on colder days.

  • Neck gaiter: A neck gaiter fits comfortably around a construction worker's neck and allows them to quickly pull it up over their mouth and ears if they're cold. Gaiters are also great to use when employees are working in construction sites with particles that are dangerous to breathe in.

  • Hard hat: Wearing a hard hat reduces your chances of suffering serious trauma if your head hits any machinery or if any falling debris lands on you. This is why many construction managers require their employees to wear hard hats at all times.

  • Towel: In hot weather conditions, towels can keep you cool and more comfortable. They typically contain cooling gels that keep your neck from overheating while working long hours in the sun.

Body protection

There are many different clothing items that construction managers may require or prefer their employees to wear. This includes shirts, vests and jackets to keep you safe, practical and comfortable when working longer hours near dangerous objects and tools. Common body protection items to wear include:

  • Duck canvas: These types of jackets have a durable outer layer to keep you feeling well-insulated on cooler workdays.

  • Hooded jacket: You can purchase a work jacket that has a hood, though there may be some sites that don't allow them, as they could unexpectedly catch on a piece of machinery. Make sure your construction manager allows hoods on your jacket before wearing them onsite.

  • Hoodie: Many construction workers typically wear a hoodie over their shirts, especially if their employer provides them with branded ones. These are warm and easy for construction workers to move around in.

  • Shirt jacket: If the weather is a little cold outside but doesn't require a jacket or coat, construction workers may wear shirt jackets, which are typically much lighter than work jackets. Some may wear hooded flannel shirt jackets, while others have canvas shirt jackets.

  • High visibility vest: For those who work in construction sites with several vehicles operating at once, employees must typically wear brightly colored high-visibility vests. These have retro-reflective materials that others can see from far away to reduce the likelihood of being struck by vehicles.

  • Lightweight material work shirts: It's best to wear lightweight work shirts that keep you from overheating on the job. Some construction managers may require employees to wear shirts made of flame-resistant materials. Button-front work shirts with chest pockets to store pencils are usually the best option for most employees. You can also find lightweight cooling shirts to keep you from overheating.

  • Cold-weather compression shirts: These are an effective base layer for construction workers to wear to protect them from extremely cold weather conditions. They're effective because they trap heat without adding a significant amount of bulk to weigh you down as you work.

Related: Learn About Being a Construction Manager

Leg and knee protection

The pants needed on construction sites will vary depending on your work conditions and the construction manager's requirements. You should make sure the pants you decide to wear onsite are tough enough to handle any ripping or tearing that could damage the pants and harm your skin.

  • Cargo pants: Many pairs of cargo pants have several pockets to make it easier to store important items like pencils, notepads or cell phone devices while you work.

  • Flex pants: These pants are typically heavy-duty, but also allow you to stretch and move comfortably as you transition from task to task. They're usually made of spandex and cotton to provide a flexible and comfortable experience when wearing them at work all day.

  • Double-knee pants: If you complete a majority of your tasks bent over or on your knees, consider purchasing double-knee pants. They contain reinforced knee padding to protect your knees and to keep your pants from wearing down too quickly.

  • Canvas work pants: These pants are both durable and heavy-duty, so they can withstand any debris or other items that could potentially tear them. It's best to only wear them in the wintertime since they can trap in heat.

  • Insulated pants: For colder weather, try insulated pants, which can make the frigid winter cold easier to withstand. It'll keep your legs warm as you spend hours working in the cold.

  • Knee pads: If you complete tasks on your knees, consider buying knee pads to quickly strap on when you need to quickly finish a task that requires you to spend a few minutes on your knees.

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