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Why Construction Workers Should Wear Long Sleeve PPE

What is "PPE"?

"PPE" stands for "Personal Protective Equipment". With regards to health and safety in the workplace, PPE refers to a wide range of protective clothing or equipment worn by a worker for safety. Some examples of PPE found on a construction site include safety glasses, gloves and hard hats.

Long Sleeve PPE

In recent times, more and more construction sites and companies are adopting the "long sleeve PPE" safety policy. This generally refers to the requirement to have all members of the workforce wearing long sleeve shirts and long trousers (no shorts) when working on site.

Many construction sites now have a "minimum PPE" requirement that requires everyone on site to wear the following at all times: * hard hat * safety glasses * steel cap boots * high visibility shirt

Some sites still allow short sleeve "high-viz" shirts and shorts to be worn on site. This is typical on building sites, such as in the housing market. However as the focus increases on safety, the general direction of company policies is moving towards long sleeve high visibility shirts and long trousers to be worn on construction sites. The main reason for this new requirement is quite simply sun protection.This is particularly the case in Australia where the rates of skin cancer are the highest in the world.

At the start of many construction projects, new team members may try to resist wearing long sleeve PPE and persistently challenge this relatively new requirement. In the interest of construction worker safety, the following are some suggested answers to common challenges/complaints raised by construction workers when asked to wear long sleeve PPE...

flickr image by mintball

flickr image by mintball

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why do I have to wear long sleeve PPE? A: You should wear long sleeve PPE for maximum sun protection. It is company policy. It is also becoming a construction industry standard.

Q: But I didn't have to wear it on the last job...? A: This is not "the last job". This is a new project/site and long sleeve PPE forms part of the minimum PPE requirements.

Q: But if I wear long sleeve PPE, how am I supposed to get a tan? A: You are here to work. This is a construction site, not a beauty parlor or tanning salon.

Q: Well, on the weekend I may go to the beach and get sunburnt because I have to stay in the sun longer since I can't get a tan during the week... A: What you do on the weekend is up to you, however at work the company policy (and your condition of employment that you agreed to by working here) is to wear long sleeve PPE.

Q: How about if we sign a petition that the company is not liable if we get skin cancer. Then can we wear short sleeves? A: No, it doesn't work that way. By law, it is a duty of care requirement for both parties. The company's duty of care is to ensure it is putting policies and systems in place to ensure the employee is safe at work. The employee's duty of care is to comply with these procedures to ensure their safety.

Q: But I wear sunscreen... A: That is great, however you still need to wear long sleeve PPE! Sunscreen is a good form of sun protection against UV light that is reflected from the ground or against concrete surfaces. It is a good secondary protection precaution where UV is not reflected on your hat or high viz clothing.

Q: It's too hot to wear long sleeve PPE. A: You will actually find that when the sun does not hit your skin directly it is in fact much cooler to wear long sleeve PPE.

Q: Can I roll my sleeves up? A: Some companies may allow this, however logically wearing long sleeve PPE and rolling the sleeves up is similar to wearing short sleeve PPE and therefore not acceptable.

Your Say


Syed Ghazi on March 06, 2019:

Me safety officer

Jason Piotrowski on September 24, 2018:

I’m a concreter , that means hard manual labour . That Q & A about long sleeves and pants being cooler is an absolutely ridiculous and one eyed view from somebody who air conditioned comfort . It’s all about safety audits and ticking boxes , the poor working conditions that come with these new safety requirements are ignored , as are the heat related health and injury issues that go with it . I’m diabetic and so is my brother , he is insulin dependent . We are both prone to heat stress and overheating ( also ignored ) . When I asked the safety officer if there’s a waver I could sign he immediately got aggressive about the fact we had to wear long sleeves and pants . He then proceeded to give me infeasible solutions and pass them off as feasible ie. there’s cooler options you can buy ( they’re not cooler and twice the price) , get your employer to put more workers on site and do ten minute rotations . I wouldn’t ask my boss to compensate for someone else’s ludicrous enforcement ( and that’s what it is ) and iwouldnt be cost effective for my boss to consider it . What is the matter with these people ? Is this deprivation of liberty or some sort of weird oppression ? Because I’m telling you now they seem to take some sort of strange satisfaction out making extremely poor and uncomfortable work conditions which are just as potentially fatal as skin cancer . Where is the duty of care in that ? What would happen if they were made to turn off their air con in the site office due to a cancer causing problems with it ? It should be up to bloody individual whether they want long or short safety clothing .

Felix on January 09, 2018:

We black people don't need long sleeves to protect us from the sun. We are already protected, by default, by the melanin in us.

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So we should be excluded from that policy.

Guru on October 20, 2017:

Most melanoma cases are on the face, how are companies going to protect the face.


steve on March 02, 2015:

MMM lets get real 1.Its a well known fact that skin cancer is associated with CHILDHOOD exposure to the sun.2.No 1 rule of machinery NO LOSE CLOTHING 3.Most of these INFLICTIONS are bought to us by people in air conned offices with ROLES not actual productive JOBS like the rest of us 5.NO PERSON is able to maintain focus when discomforted to the point of dehydration.6.last but not least the GUISE of "caring"is all only as the trade say"arse covering"KIWIS love "she,ll be right" and "N0 8 wire",after all lets see the rule pushers lead by example..."YEAH RIGHT!!!"LTFOL!!!!!!

Ceiling fixer on June 03, 2013:

I was forced to wear a long sleeve top today at work, I've got no problem with that if the client (an oil company) wants me top wear long sleeve shirt when it's 45 degrees up where all the services are running then I expect them to at least provide water on every floor!! this is on shore not off shore!!

health and safety has gone too far!! common sense is becoming a thing of the past.... now i get told what to wear!! next thing we'll have to show them our lunch to see if it's ok to eat!!

enjoylife on October 10, 2012:

to all of you safety haters...ya all are risk takers that you should make your own company and try to get a job without proper safety system ...coz you don't like rules then you can make your own rules no one will be busy when you cut your hand or feel sorry when you have skin cancer...may luck be with all the time...but when i come across any of you surely i will make the company to get rid off all risk takers like you

Grippa on September 14, 2012:

Re: New summer uniform for office workers.

Please check out the brilliant new uniform that we've been waiting for, for so long.

As you will notice from the attached sample, jacket and pants are made from a very durable plastic, which is easy to wipe down from coffee spills etc. The bright colours match our trades persons uniforms perfectly in bright green and yellow, so as to reduce the amount of clothing needed to take with you for on site visits. Also this looks very professional to our visitors, because it looks like we do more work.

The four reflective stripes around the arms and legs will ensure that you just can't be bumped into in the corridor any more. Please make sure you also pick up the new curved Bolle' style safety glasses. We have had more than one incident of pen accidently poked in the eye, and our current 4 million dollar safety program has brought us to this solution.

The boots are also reflective, to match, and brings into line the standard of steel caps that we've been waiting for. No more foot injuries and lost time to that dropped stapler...etc.

Finally, admin have noticed that there are a lot of complaints about the trade uniforms of late, so we have included a quality pair of ear muffs that needs to be worn when ever this happens.

You will notice that the new uniform material makes a lovely scratch scratch sound as you walk around the office, and this was intentional, as in the event of you not seeing the other office worker, you will always hear them. Our plan was to have beepers fitted to each pair of boots, but this was not possible in the time frame given. Maybe in the next model !

Looking after our staff.


Grippa on September 14, 2012:

ALSO..... Yes you do lose heat through your head, which is why we need to relax the helmets a bit indoors in summer. THEY ARE PLASTIC which doesn't help. I've just taken delivery of my new uniform (no not a summer one, they are all the same), and this year for the first time there are 2 plastic stripes around the body, and 2 plastic stripes around the arms. So even though we all wanted cotton (which they are), this has been bastardised by 25% plastic covering, making them worse for heat than ever. Our new jackets are all plastic top to bottom, so imagine where the sweat stays in them! Inside the cotton lining going mouldy! All this in the name of company profiles and hi viz! AND.... this all burns and melts very willingly !!!!!

Surely no one will defend this crazy fetish much longer.............

Grippa on September 14, 2012: