Safety Corner: Personal Protective Equipment

An Important Part of Daily Jobsite Safety

by Darin Douglas, CEO, Lowe Roofing, Inc., & president, Merge 3 Technology, Inc.









(Editor’s Note: Darin Douglas began roofing in 1997 after graduating from Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota. Lowe Roofing, Inc., is a family-owned roofing company that has been in operation since 1975 in South Dakota and Wyoming. Merge 3 Technology, Inc., helps contractors track and control their safety processes and efforts on a daily basis. Douglas also served on the WSRCA Board of Directors for nine years and was the chair of the Safety and Health Committee and Low-Slope Committee.)


Commercial and residential roofing projects come with hazards that can injure or even kill a worker. Risk is inherent in the business, and personal protective equipment (PPE) is the first line of defense. Proper use of PPE for the task at hand will help avoid injury and protect your workers from the hazards of the job. PPE is required by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Standard 1910.132, with further guidelines in Standard 1926.95. This standard spells out what employers are required to pay for and what they are not required to pay for in regards to PPE.

Proper PPE use begins at the start of every day and continues throughout working hours. When preparing for the workday, identify the tasks at hand for the project and the possible hazards your workers will face. This will allow you to acquire the PPE your workers will need to use throughout the day. An excellent way to do this is by completing a simple job hazard analysis each morning.

Hard hats are required by OSHA when there is a chance of getting hit in the head by a falling object. Hard hats also protect workers from banging their head on machinery, ductwork, or low spots in the structure. They also protect from electrical shock and burning, as they are nonconductive. Routinely inspect hard hats for damage and replace when damage is found.

Safety glasses or face shields are required by OSHA when the task at hand can cause airborne objects to damage the eye, as well as when working with harmful chemicals. For example, if a worker is cutting shingles, tear-off materials, or using a nail gun, safety glasses are a must. If prescription eyeglasses are required to see, then safety goggles or a face shield must be used. The smallest of particles can cause damage to the eye so requiring safety glasses be worn at all times is good business practice and policy.

Hand injuries account for a majority of workplace injuries, leading to lost time and lost wages. In roofing, your hands are involved in every aspect of the job, so keeping them safe and in working order is important. OSHA requires that gloves be worn when the task requires them and that the proper type of gloves are used. When tearing off roofing materials or moving materials, leather gloves are recommended, whereas if working with chemicals, the appropriate chemical-resistant gloves are needed. Make sure all workers have access to the gloves needed to protect them from all hazards present.

The clothes worn to work every day can affect worker safety. An example would be the condition of pants worn. If they are too baggy or the legs are too long, you could catch your pants climbing a ladder or trip while moving materials around the roof. If your shirt is too loose or ripped, it could get caught in machinery or fail to protect you from spilled chemicals. Proper fitting work clothes paired with the right work boot will provide quality worker protection. Footwear in good shape with a safety toe and the right tread will make a huge difference. Make sure footwear fits correctly, are properly laced up, and are replaced immediately when they become worn or damaged.

PPE is a worker’s first line of protection and is required every day. Make sure it is available to be used, and that workers are trained in its proper use. Training workers to recognize the tasks at hand, and the PPE needed to achieve the task safely is essential. It is good practice and policy to address PPE use in every company safety training session or toolbox talk session. Keep PPE at the forefront of your safety program and reduce injuries and lost time.