Overalls are the most common attire worn on construction sites and are ubiquitous at well-managed sites. Workers usually wear overalls not only because they protect them from a wide range of hazards but also because they help them to do their job well, says Kavita Nigam.
Work on a construction site is both challenging and dangerous. Construction workers may work hundreds of feet above the earth and are often exposed to dangers from acids, radiant heat, sparks, naked flames, and heavy objects such as bricks and beams. Even workers who are not atop a building being constructed may be exposed to dangers from traffic. Hence protection from dangerous materials and flames is nearly as crucial to be safe in every construction site as being visible to one’s workmates is.
Because in a construction site, workers are surrounded by heavy objects, flames, hazardous chemicals, and are also exposed to loud noises, safety is paramount. Almost no safety equipment is more important at such sites than protective clothing. Overalls are the most common attire worn on construction sites and are ubiquitous at well-managed sites.
Just as skilled employees in different vocations have a dress code, so too do skilled construction workers have their dress code. A well-maintained piece of protective clothing is a reason for pride for many workers, as a matter of fact, the most efficient and dedicated workers wear the neatest and best looked after protective clothing.
Protective clothing’s role in construction sites
As stated above, at a construction site protective clothing serves as an unofficial uniform for workers yet it meant to, and does, offers excellent utility too. Hence, workers usually wear overalls not only because they protect them from a wide range of hazards but also because they help them to do their job well.
Overalls that protect workers from hazards such as fire or flames are often required in construction sites. Such overalls are made from flame resistant fabrics and also protect wearers should a hot liquid spill on them.
While safety is paramount in a construction site, workers in such sites also use a number of different tools; they carry around tools such as pliers, screwdrivers, spanners etc. Overalls have pockets that are designed to allow workers to carry every kind of small tool they need. Furthermore, they also have separate pockets for other tools workers commonly use such as protective eyewear and pens.
Other benefits of overalls on construction sites
While safety is important when working on a construction site, comfort plays a big role as well. Workers who are comfortable will be able to carry out their duties better. This is why overalls are ideal to wear to a construction site because they sit well on a wearers frame as they don’t need to be tied with a belt or to be held up using suspenders.
As workers in a site are likely to spend the entire day in overalls, good overalls thankfully have elastic on the waist that expands to make a wearer comfortable. Furthermore good quality overalls keep workers relatively cool and comfortable when it is hot or humid. Plentiful pockets in overalls also allow workers to keep their work inventory secure. Such extra comforts enable workers in construction sites to carry out their duties easily, comfortably and safely.
To see and be seen
On any busy work site when groups of people work together surrounded by dangerous materials or extreme environmental hazards, it’s imperative that everyone be able to clearly see everyone else. Knowing where someone is even in the poor light of the evening is important for safety on a construction site. High-quality overalls come with 500 CD/Lux reflective tape that brightly reflects any light that shines on them making the wearer visible even in poor lighting. A remarkable quality of this reflective tape is that it is not degraded even when washed frequently.
Protective clothing in different roles
Just as there are many different types of work environments, there is also more than one variety of protective clothing. Plain overalls may be made from cotton or a flame retardant material and are suitable to wear at many construction sites. Other kinds of overalls may be used by firemen or by people who work in some of the most extreme environments such as nuclear power plants or chemical laboratories or chemical plants.
The different variety of overalls - coverall
Some of the most extreme work environments have been created over the past few decades. One such extreme environment is the nuclear power plant, and others are certain research laboratories.
Workers in nuclear power plants have to remain vigilant and to ensure their safety are usually required to wear coveralls that protect them from dangers common in nuclear plants. A danger workers in nuclear plants have to guard against is contamination by liquid or dust particles.
Firstly, to recognise the need for safety at nuclear power plants today one need not look too far back in time. 7 years ago in Japan, a tsunami led to what's come to be known as the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster. An earthquake caused a tsunami which damaged the nuclear reactor in Japan and while radiation from the plant did not cause any loss of life, 2 individuals were treated for burns that may have been the result of nuclear radiation.
Some hazards present in nuclear power plants and laboratories may be attributable to ionising radiation or radioactive particle or liquid hazards. Nuclear protective clothing is similar in appearance to overalls worn in well-managed construction sites but is qualitatively different from the latter. The protective clothing worn in nuclear sites may be made from materials such as Teflon, Tyvek, or heavy PVC or rubber.
While the standard procedure to protect against ionising radiation exposure is distance, shielding, and time, some shielding may be provided by protective clothing that contains lead.
In cases where employees may be exposed to radioactively active particles or liquids, the most constructive and safe approach is to protect workers from direct contact with contaminated particles and liquids rather than to protect workers from radiation. Notably, unlike the protective clothing worn in construction sites, protective clothing that is worn in exposed regions of a nuclear power plant is promptly removed and disposed of after use. Coveralls that are used for protection from chemicals and radioactively active particles are hooded. It is rightly believed that more coverage is better. Hooded coveralls cover an individual’s head keeping the person’s hair and clothes free from exposure to radioactive materials. Furthermore to be safe in extreme environments other Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) such as respirators, gloves, goggles, and footwear should also be used alongside coveralls.
The coveralls used in laboratories and in nuclear facilities not only keep workers safe from hazards they also, like the overalls used in construction sites, offer exceptional utility. People wearing coveralls are able to work almost as easily wearing their coveralls as they would were they not wearing the hooded PPE.
A job site where workers are not equipped with the right safety equipment is a poorly managed and unsafe work site. Employers who make certain that workers have the right kind of protective clothing are more likely to lead a happy and more productive team. Rapid changes in the variety of work that is being performed by workers all over the world at times demand that stricter and more dynamic measures be taken to keep workers safe. Along with changing job roles, new types of PPEs are also evolving that try to ensure that preventable accidents in the workplace are fewer and less disruptive than they were before.
About the Author:
Kavita Nigam is the General Manager (HR and Publicity & Promotion) at KARAM Industries - one of the leading manufacturers of personal protective equipment (PPE) in India.