Personal protective equipment (PPE) is the first line of defense against jobsite hazards that can cause serious injury or illness. All field employees should be trained on what personal protective equipment to use in every work situation, and lead carpenters and production managers should set a good example to ensure personal protection becomes a habit.

Wear Your Hard Hat

A hard hat is the best protection against serious head injuries from falling objects. To be effective, the web suspension must be installed properly, and the hat must be worn with the front rim facing forward. Avoid drilling holes in or otherwise altering the shell. Stickers with metal coatings can create an electrical hazard, and paint or paint thinner can weaken the plastic shell.

Use Safety Glasses

Safety glasses, goggles, and full-face shields protect a worker's eyes from sawdust, flying particles, hot sparks, sand, mist, and glare. Regular sunglasses are not approved for use as safety eye protection. Approved safety glasses will have "Z87" stamped on them.

Wear Work Boots

Proper footwear, such as leather or steel-toed boots or shoes, helps protect against injuries caused by stepping on sharp objects like nail-embedded boards, tipping or rolling objects like steel beams, and hot surfaces like pavement or roofing. They also give better ankle support than sneakers or running shoes — especially when stepping off ladders or staging or walking on uneven ground.

Protect Your Ears

Hearing loss from loud tools and equipment is permanent, so protect your ears when working with or near powder-actuated fasteners, circular saws, pneumatic nailers, compressors, generators, and gas-powered tools — especially in confined areas. It may be difficult to hear coworkers, so stay alert when wearing ear protection. Clean or replace earmuffs or ear plugs regularly.

Watch Your Hands

Gloves can protect hands and fingers from splinters, cuts, pinch points, chemicals, and hot and cold materials, and can even help prevent electrocution. Many newer types of work gloves also reduce fatigue and make for a better grip on tools and materials.

Breathe Easy With a Respirator

Respirators protect your nose and lungs from air contaminated with dust, particles, fumes, gas, smoke, spray, and vapor. They include everything from simple dust masks to full-face respirators with replaceable filter cartridges. It is important to match the respirator to the work conditions — installing fiberglass insulation calls for a different level of protection than spray-painting. If a job requires a respirator, you must have a medical evaluation and be properly fitted before beginning work. — This article is adapted from REMODELING's sister publication, EL NUEVO CONSTRUCTOR, which provides safety information in English and Spanish. This safety information is provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Other OSHA safety information is available in English and Spanish at or by calling (800) 321-6742.