When you think of construction workers, you may imagine them wearing their yellow hard hats and reflective vests, but there’s more to their clothing than that. What do construction workers wear?
Construction workers generally wear functional work pants with plenty of accessible pockets, work boots with toe and slip protection, and a work shirt appropriate for the climate. They also must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) to meet certain safety standards. These items usually include eye, ear, head, hand, and foot protection.
Of course, there are several different types of construction jobs, and the exact safety requirements can vary from job to job. Speaking with your construction site manager is the best way to get a specific list of safety requirements for your job, and is our recommendation.
Most everything that a construction worker wears either makes them:
- More Comfortable
- More Safe
- More Functional
Let’s take a closer look at what construction workers wear, by taking a look at both the PPE that they wear, and the clothes they wear.
What Should Construction Workers Wear?
As mentioned earlier, the clothing and gear construction workers wear should meet the safety standards set forth for that job. Usually that means that there should be sufficient protection for the eyes, ears, head, hands, and feet.
The below table lists the type of PPE that you will often see used at a construction site:
|Type of Protection
|Common PPE Used
|Safety glasses, face shields
|Will vary depending on the task at hand
|Should fit snugly around the head to ensure safety
|Closed-toe shoes, protective boots
|Slip-resistant and puncture-resistant
|Class-G hard hats are most common, but it varies
|Heavy-duty gloves—will depend on the work at hand
The Different Types of Protection
Different sites require different levels of protection. Specific eye protection may vary. Eye-related injuries can be a direct result of loose/falling objects, sparks getting into the eye area, or even punctures from machinery.
Three common eye protection devices are:
- Safety glasses are a universally-used type of protective gear in construction. They will protect your eyes and the immediate area around them from most impact hazards.
- Safety goggles will protect you from larger flying objects, flying particles, and dust. Goggles usually have enclosed sides, whereas safety glasses may not.
- Face shields offer the most protection to the face from impact and debris. Not all construction jobs will require a face shield.
Earmuffs and foam earplugs are the go-to’s when it comes to noise reduction while working. But sometimes that isn’t enough, so preformed earplugs or canal caps will assist with higher noise levels.
Again, this will be determined by the safety standards set forth by your job. Some jobs may allow foam earplugs, while others may demand a more significant type of ear protection.
More often than not, construction workers are on their feet most of the day. With potential hazards of slippery surfaces, puncture wounds, and crushing materials, construction workers must adhere to strict guidelines for foot protection on-site.
Not only do you need to think about toe safety, but also the top part of your foot (metatarsal protection), and the bottom of your foot (pierce protection). Again, the exact requirements will vary significantly from job to job.
Some jobs may allow a simple plain toe work boot. Other may require a safety toe, and then some jobs may require a safety toe, a met guard, and a steel shank for underfoot protection.
Of course, regarding work shoes, slip-protection is also critical. You will want a pair of work boots that has a reliable outsole with slip protection. Many construction workers use a square-heel boot for added grip.
Hard hats are usually required to be worn by workers on the ground level, which includes electricians, drivers, and more. Just like everything else, the exact type of head protection will vary job to job.
There are many different types of gloves available for construction work, and yes, the specific type of glove matters! Here are some of the gloves that may be used:
- Cotton/fabric gloves are the most basic type of glove. They keep your hands protected from minor injuries, so they are not always recommended for construction work.
- Rubber/synthetic gloves are often worn when working with certain chemicals, oils, or solvents.
- Leather gloves are often worn when welding.
- Kevlar gloves work well to protect your hands against both the heat and freezing temperatures. They are great for industrial work.
- Liquid-resistant/chemical gloves should be used when dealing with any type of hazardous chemical.
Construction workers spend a lot of their time in the sun, and so they must at least consider sun protection. This is something that is often left out of safety standards required by the company, but is something that a worker should consider on his/her own.
Applying appropriate sunscreen can be important, as well as wearing UPF clothing and working out of the sun as much as possible. This not only will protect your skin, but also help you battle the heat.
Types of Clothing Construction Workers Wear
Besides PPE, the type of clothing you wear can also contribute to your overall safety, and can greatly impact how functional your are on a construction site.
Construction workers often wear:
- Work Pants with Tool Pockets
- Work Boots with Slip Protection
- Tool Belt
- Work Shirt determined by weather
- Work Gloves
- Work Jacket for winter
- Any Required PPE
The pants worn will vary job to job, and climate to climate. Of course, all work pants need to be tough enough to handle a work site. Here are some of the types of work pants you might see at a construction site:
- Canvas Work Pants – Canvas work pants are heavy duty and durable. They can stand up to a work site, but can also be stiff and hot. To read more about these types of pants. visit our article about the best heavy duty canvas work pants.
- Cargo Pants – Some construction workers like to maximize pockets, so they turn to work cargo pants. Extra pockets can make life much easier for workers. To read more, visit our article about the best cargo work pants.
- Ripstop Pants – For some, the heavy-duty, canvas duck cotton pants can be too stiff and too warm. The problem is, you still need something durable. These workers often turn to ripstop pants, which have material that help prevent tears. To read more, visit our article about the best ripstop pants.
- Khaki Pants – Yes, some workers on a job site may wear khaki work pants. These are less common, and typically worn by those (like a site manager) who may spend part of his day in an office setting. To read more, visit our article about the best khaki work pants to wear on a job site.
- Flex Pants – These have become very popular over the last few years. Many construction workers like a heavy duty work pant that has a bit of stretch. These pants usually combine cotton and spandex, but still need toughness to stand up on the job site. To read more, visit our article about the best flex work pants.
- Gusseted Crotch – If you don’t like flex pants, you may need gusseted crotch pants to add comfort. A crotch gusset add a diamond shape piece of fabric to the crotch area for extra space to comfortably bend, crouch, and kneel. To read more, visit our article about the best gusseted crotch work pants.
- Double-Knee – Some jobs need a reinforced knee to help them hold up over the long term. Not all jobs require this, and one drawback is they tend to trap in more heat. To read more, visit our article about the best double knee work pants.
- Knee Pads – For some construction workers, knee pads are a must. Yes, you can buy strap on knee pads, but some workers prefer work pants that can take knee pad inserts. To read more, visit our article about the best work pants with knee pads.
- Relaxed Fit – Most workers can’t stand a tight fit. Work pants that restrict movement are never helpful, and can be a safety issue. To read more, visit our article about the best relaxed fit work pants.
- Hot Weather – Yes, it can be brutal out there in the heat. But many construction workers prefer work pants, and turn to durable work pants made with lighter-weight fabric to allow the legs to breathe. To read more, visit our article about the best summer work pants.
- Cold Weather – Just like summer, winter can be equally brutal. Many workers will turn to an insulated work pant to add warmth in the winter. To read more, visit our article about the best winter work pants.
Some construction workers will wear shorts during the summer months. There are a few jobs that may restrict this for safety reasons. Here are a couple types of work shorts you may see on the job:
- Cargo Shorts – Just like cargo pants, cargo shorts are popular for construction workers. Extra pockets always helps. Some may prefer cargo shorts with zippered pockets for extra pocket protection, and less bulk.
- Shorts for Hot Weather – Yes, all shorts make sense for summer, but during the worst months, some workers may turn to fabric made with lighter-weight material, and fabric that is moisture wicking. To read more, visit our article about the best work shorts.
Unfortunately, the truth is the work shirt can vary A LOT depending on job. Many construction jobs provide a branded work shirt (but not all jobs do this).
Also, some jobs may require flame-resistant material, or some other types of safety shirt. In general, outside of these requirements we just mentioned, most construction workers just wear basic shirts that are appropriate for the climate.
Some workers may prefer a button front work shirt that has a chest pocket and a pencil pocket. But probably the most significant factor that impacts the type of shirt worn by a construction worker is weather.
- Hot Weather – Some shirts are lightweight, moisture wicking, and may even have cooling properties. To read more, visit our article about the best work t shirts for hot weather. For long sleeve, visit our article about the best long sleeve summer work shirts.
- Cold Weather – Many construction workers will wear a base layer when the weather turns extremely cold. These base layers help trap heat, but don’t add much weight or bulk. To read more, visit our article about the best cold weather compression shirts.
Work jackets are essential for construction workers during the winter months. These work jackets need to be durable, but also functional. Of course, some jobs may require flame-resistant jackets, or other types of safety jackets.
Most workear jackets are made with duck cotton canvas fabric for toughness, and will feature both internal and external pockets. Here’s what you need to know about some of the types of outerwear that a construction worker might wear:
- Duck Canvas – It is very common to see work jackets that use the durable canvas outer shell. Some may opt for a pre-washed shell to give it a more broken-in feeling on the first wear.
- Hooded – Not all work jackets are hooded, and for some climates, a hood is critical. For most construction jobs, hoods are allowed. To read more, visit our article about the best hooded work jackets.
- Shirt Jackets – Some may prefer a lighter-weight jacket for more mild temperatures. Many workers will wear a canvas shirt jacket, while others may turn to a hooded flannel shirt jacket. This will be dependent on how heavy-duty they need the jacket to be.
- Hoodie – This is a very common piece of outerwear to see on a construction site. Many companies may offer a branded work hoodie. To read more, visit our article about the best work hoodies to wear on a job site.
Other Types of Outerwear
For those brutal winter months, you will see a construction worker wear even more than just a simple jacket. We already discussed work gloves earlier in the article, and that is something that is very common to see during the winter months.
Here are some other things you might see a construction worker wear during the brutal summer months and/or the brutal winter months:
- Neck Gaiter – A neck gaiter fits around the neck and can be pulled up over the mouth and ears. This can be useful during the winter months. To read more, visit our article about the best fleece neck gaiters for winter.
- Beanie – Some construction workers will wear a beanie hat for extra warmth during winter. To read more about these beanie hats, visit our article about the best Thinsulate beanies.
- Bucket Hat – Keeping sun off the neck, head, and face can be very important, but trapping in extra heat during the summer months can make a brutally hot day even worse. Some workers turn to breathable or cooling bucket hats. To read more, visit our article about the best breathable bucket hats.
- Helmet Liner – Helmet liners to wear under a hard hat can make sense for both winter and summer. Winter helmet liners help trap heat, while summer helmet liners help disperse sweat away from the body. To read more, visit our article about the best hard hat helmet liners.
Obviously, footwear is incredibly important not only for comfort, but for safety. There are some construction jobs which may allow a work shoe to be worn, but it varies significantly depending on safety standards.
As we discussed earlier in the article, a safety toe boot is often required, and some jobs may also require underfoot protection, and metatarsal protection. You will need to ask you site manager what is required.
For more information, visit our article about construction footwear.
What Not to Wear
Like all jobs, you can’t go into work wearing your favorite Halloween costume. But since this line of work is incredibly physical, here are some things that should never be worn on site:
- Sleeveless shirts (unless approved by a higher-up)
- Suggestive phrases or images on clothing
- Open-toed shoes
- Ripped jeans
- Tight, restrictive pants
Avoiding these clothing options is not only to keep you safe but to keep others around you safe, as well.