What Do Construction Workers Wear? (With Explanations)
Updated August 7, 2023
Construction workers wear personal protective equipment (PPE) on their heads, hands, bodies and feet when they work on construction sites. Knowing what equipment to wear can help you be comfortable and stay safe as you operate heavy machinery, complete complex projects and work in different outdoor conditions.
In this article, we review why it matters what construction workers wear and discuss the different types of clothing and safety items that can help protect them.
Why does it matter what construction workers wear?
Construction workers can adhere to the uniform and safety equipment requirements of their employer and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to stay safe and comfortable while on the job. They can reduce the risk of injuries when carrying heavy items, working on tall structures and operating heavy machinery and tools. Wearing the proper clothing and equipment can improve a construction worker's endurance and mobility while on the job, which can help them complete their tasks more productively and efficiently.
What do construction workers wear?
Review the different types of clothing and accessory items construction workers typically wear on the job:
The type of eye protection a construction worker wears usually depends on the conditions of the site. If you're operating machinery where loose debris like wood or metal could fly laterally and hit you in the eyes, you can wear proper eye protection to prevent injuries. You may also be in situations where items above you could fall and land in your eyes. Common eye protection gear to wear includes:
A construction worker wears a face shield when operating a high-velocity or explosive power tool like a nail gun. It protects the eyes and face, as it shields against potential impacts from flying debris.
Safety goggles offer sealed protection around your eyes when you use their strap to adjust them to the size of your head. They can protect your eyes from the damage that larger particles and dust may cause to your eyes.
Safety glasses are easier to put on and remove than safety goggles, as they resemble traditional eyeglasses more closely. While they don't provide the same robust protection as safety goggles, they can still protect the immediate areas around your eyes when you're working on a construction site with fewer harmful hazards.
Because of how frequently construction workers stand and walk around during their shifts, they wear sturdy and comfortable protection on their feet. They always wear closed-toed shoes when they're on construction sites and they may wear additional protective items. Some common foot protection construction workers wear include:
Work boots can protect your feet from potential hazards like crushing materials, punctures or slippery areas. You can purchase work boots that are comfortable, waterproof, breathable and sturdy. Try to find boots with heel support, excellent grip and ankle and midsole support. You can also ensure that your boots are water-resistant and chemical resistant in case you're working in any wet or muddy areas.
If you don't have water-resistant boots, you can purchase shoe covers that protect your shoe's material from wear and tear. They're also convenient for instances when you're transitioning from an indoor environment to an outdoor environment frequently. When you arrive indoors, you can simply take off your shoe covers to ensure you don't track any mud on the floors.
Toe guards fit over the top of your toes and feet to provide protection from falling objects. They typically consist of materials like plastic, fiber or metal to offer robust protection.
Because of the nature of the work construction workers perform and the tools they use, construction sites can be very noisy. You can wear canal caps or custom-molded earplugs to prevent damage to your eardrums.
The type of earplugs you 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.
Different types of gloves featuring various materials can protect your hands from injuries as you work on construction projects:
If you're handling hazardous chemicals or any type of liquid, you can wear liquid-resistant gloves to wick away moisture. Liquid-resistant gloves can also prevent hazardous chemicals from damaging the skin on your hands.
Cotton or fabric gloves
A construction worker can wear cotton or fabric gloves when working on low-risk projects. These gloves can protect your hands from getting minor scrapes and scratches.
If you're performing any welding tasks while on a construction site, you can use leather gloves to improve your grip on various tools. They also provide resistance to abrasion and protect your hands from electrical shock and extreme heat.
Rubber or synthetic gloves
As you work with any oils, solvents or other chemicals, you can wear disposable rubber or synthetic gloves to keep these substances from touching and hurting your skin.
Head and neck protection
Construction workers wear head and neck protection to protect them from falling objects and loose debris. Common types of head and neck protection items include:
Construction workers typically wear these to keep their heads and ears warm during the winter. These don't typically offer any protection from falling debris or loose items, but they keep construction workers comfortable on colder days.
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 useful when employees are working on construction sites with particles that are dangerous to inhale.
Wearing a hard hat reduces your chances of suffering serious trauma if your head hits any machinery or any falling debris lands on you. This is why many construction managers require their employees to wear hard hats at all times.
In hot weather conditions, a towel around your neck can keep you cool and more comfortable. They typically contain cooling gels that keep you from overheating while working long hours in the sun.
Dust mask or respirator
A dust mask or an N95 respirator can protect construction workers from inhaling harmful substances or airborne particles. They create a barrier between the employee's respiratory system and potentially hazardous particles, fumes and gases. Dust masks filter out larger particles, while respirators offer a higher level of filtration and protection against smaller particles. Construction workers can select their respiration devices carefully, as they can be more effective when they fit properly.
Construction workers can experience greater comfort and protect themselves from hazardous working conditions by wearing the following items:
Duck canvas jacket
A duck canvas jacket is a robust outer garment that offers protection against scrapes and scratches. It also has insulation to keep you warm on cooler days when working outside.
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 typically wear brightly colored high-visibility vests. These have retro-reflective materials in colors like yellow and orange that others can see from far away to increase safety on a worksite.
Lightweight material work shirts
Lightweight work shirts can keep you from overheating on the job. Some construction managers may require employees to wear shirts that consist of flame-resistant materials. Employees may wear button-front work shirts with chest pockets to store pencils and other small tools. You can also find lightweight cooling shirts to keep you from overheating.
Cold weather compression shirts
Cold weather compression shirts are effective base layers for construction workers to wear to protect themselves 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.
Leg and knee protection
Construction workers can ensure the pants and other leg and knee protection items are durable enough to handle abrasive surfaces. Some examples of common clothing items for leg and knee protection include:
Many pairs of cargo pants have several pockets to make it easier to store and access items like pencils, notepads or cell phone devices while you work.
These pants are typically heavy-duty but also allow you to stretch and move comfortably as you transition from task to task. They usually consist of spandex and cotton materials to provide a flexible and comfortable experience when wearing them at work all day.
If you complete a lot of your tasks in a kneeling position, you may consider purchasing double-knee pants. They contain reinforced knee padding to protect your knees and keep your pants from wearing down too quickly. You may also purchase knee pads that you can take on and off easily.
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. You can wear them in cooler weather, as they may retain heat. For colder weather, try insulated pants, which can provide you with some protection against cold winter conditions.
Construction workers apply sunscreen to the areas of their bodies that they don't cover with clothing or safety equipment. They can choose a sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF) to ensure adequate protection from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. Construction workers can apply their sunscreen at regular intervals to ensure they have adequate coverage during the sunniest parts of the workday.
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