When you use your workshop at home, using PPE could save you from injury or even death. Any time you turn on a power tool, use a saw to cut wood, or get on the roof of your house to make a roof repair, PPE can help protect you. If you have an accident, PPE can reduce or prevent injury. This can save you money on medical bills while also reducing the hardship that comes from sustaining an injury.
I use PPE whenever it’s needed, and I want you to know more about it. In this piece, I’ll tell you all about the importance of PPE, how to choose PPE, and when to use it.
Table of Contents
What Is PPE?
PPE stands for personal protective equipment. PPE protects people from injury when they’re engaging in hazardous activities. It’s most often used in workplace environments to protect people from occupational hazards. Workshop safety equipment protects the lives of construction workers, window washers, healthcare workers and more.
Do you ever use a dust mask? That’s PPE.
Hard hat? PPE.
Safety glasses? PPE as well.
When you’re doing something in your workshop at home, safety gear can prevent you from sustaining serious injuries. Without PPE, you could be at greater risk to cut off a limb, lose an eye, or damage your hearing.
The Consequences of Not Having Safety Gear
PPE can prevent a terrible, life-threatening injury. You might be surprised to learn that PPE can also protect you from chronic conditions that can reduce your quality of life or end your life prematurely.
One example: have you ever heard of a condition called silicosis? This disease affects people who work with and breathe in silica dust. Silica dust is released when you cut stone or drywall, work with grout, slice landscaping pavers, and more. It even comes from the sand that you mix with concrete. When the dust is inhaled, pieces of silica become embedded in the lungs. Eventually, the lungs develop scar tissue that makes breathing difficult. Advanced stages of this disease can kill.
Wearing the right PPE can prevent you from breathing in silica dust, and thus can prevent you from developing respiratory problems like silicosis. If you don’t wear PPE, you could do permanent damage to your body.
Types of PPE
PPE comes in all different flavors. No matter what you’re doing in the shop at home, you can use PPE to help protect yourself from injury.
Eye and Face Protection
Eye and face protection can prevent you from being hit with flying particles. This type of safety gear can also prevent burns and blunt trauma. If you work with saws, hammers or yard tools, you probably need to have some eye and face protection in your shop.
Safety glasses can help protect you from mechanical risks like flying projectiles. Look for safety glasses with side protection, if you’re worried about projectiles. Additionally, look for glasses with anti-fog film, anti-scratch coating, UV protection, and a headstrap to keep it secured around your head. Some safety glasses even come with space for you to attach earplugs for hearing protection.
Wear safety goggles when you’re working with chemicals. They should fit to your face so that your skin is in contact with all sides of the goggles, forming a seal between the goggles and your skin. Fumes and splashes from chemicals can easily get around the edges of safety glasses, which can cause intense pain or damage to the delicate eye area.
Face shields are used in welding, or when working with belt sanders, hydraulic presses, air compressors and other power tools with a high risk of breaking and sending something into your face. For welding, face shields are intended to protect you from radiation and burns, but in other cases, it’s used to protect you from high-velocity projectiles. When choosing a face shield, select one that is rated for the activity you’re doing.
If you work with heavy equipment on a regular basis, then you’re probably exposed to some loud noises. Over time, repeated exposure to very loud noises will damage your hearing. You can prevent this from happening by wearing the right ear protection. Be sure to wear good protective ear plugs and ear muffs to protect your hearing. You may even be able to find bluetooth hearing protection options to supply music or audio while you work.
Ear plugs are convenient because they fit inside the ear and won’t interfere with use of eye protection. Not everyone likes ear plugs because they can be uncomfortable and difficult to insert. Unless installed properly, ear plugs may not block as much sound as desired, so be sure to check the sound cancellation rating and ensure you’re getting a proper seal.
Sound-Canceling Ear Covers
Sound-canceling ear covers are much easier to use, and block sound by covering the full ear. In fact, some advanced ear covers are able to block loud industrial noises while still making it possible to hear conversations, which is pretty cool.
Different types of ear safety equipment is rated for different levels of protection. Check the product you’re using to find out how many decibels it produces, then check the ear protection device to find out if it offers the level of protection you need for proper workshop safety.
Masks & Respirators
Masks and respirators are necessary when you’re breathing in dust (like silica) or working with chemicals. But don’t confuse them, because they’re not the same thing, and there are many different types of respirators and masks. Wearing the wrong thing at the wrong time could lead to a chronic condition or illness. Always check your MSDS sheet to make sure you’re using chemicals and safety gear properly.
Particle masks, also known as dust masks, are useful for activities like mowing the lawn and cleaning the attic. They protect against “nuisance dust,” but do not protect against real dangers like silica.
Respirators filter dangerous particulates and make the air safe to breathe. Respirators have different levels of protection, to filter particulates of different sizes. Respirators come in different types, including reusable and disposable. You can determine the best respirator type you should use based on the activity you’re doing and how often you’ll be engaging in those activities. The respirator you need to prevent a resin allergy is different than the one you’ll need to work in a dusty environment.
To get a good seal on a negative pressure reusable respirator, seal the air inlet openings and gently inhale. The sides of the reusable respirator should pull inward toward your face. If your respirator doesn’t do this, the respirator is not sealing properly. Try talking and moving your face in different directions to ensure that the respirator fits properly in all positions. If you gain weight or lose weight, you may need a new respirator.
Protective clothing can be used to pad your body, protect you from dangerous chemicals and heat, and even protect you from cut injuries. Below are the most common types of protective clothing.
Knee pads should be used when you’re spending a lot of time on your knees, or when you’re anticipating a possible impact on your knees. Knee pads can protect injury to your knees and muscles.
Aprons protect your body from contact with hazardous materials, like splashing chemicals. Use aprons when you’re mixing chemicals, cleaning with chemicals, and when pouring chemicals from one container to another. Check your apron regularly for signs of wear and tear, and wash after each use.
Work boots provide different levels of protection based on your activities. Some work boots are oil resistant, others are waterproof. Steel-toed boots can protect your feet from crush injuries and slices. Check the boots before buying them, as some shoes only look like work boots but fail to offer the desired level of protection.
If you engage in lots of different activities, then you’ll want boots that provide all levels of protection. Good quality work boots will last a long time, so I recommend not skimping on this product. I also recommend wearing steel toe work boots basically all the time if you’re getting down to business in a wood shop or making repairs on your property.
Work gloves are made from different materials to offer different benefits. Some are waterproof and resistant to chemicals, others are breathable but tough. The best safety gloves offer protection when working in the yard, using power tools, laying mulch, mixing chemicals and doing other things.
Did you know that hard hats have an expiration date? Over time, plastic becomes brittle and fragile, which makes it easily breakable. When purchasing a hard hat, look for the ANSI rating to be sure it’s an actual hard hat, and not a prop or costume item.
Wear hard hats when you’re working on a roof, on a jobsite where other people are working above you, and when you’re using a ladder. It’s also important to wear a hard hat when there’s the potential to bump your head on something hard, like a pipe or a beam. Some hard hats come with lights positioned on their front, so you can pick which one is right for you.
Safety Equipment In the Workshop
PPE isn’t the only thing that can keep you safe in the workshop. In my workshop, I’ve got a lot of equipment that can prevent injuries and disasters. Here’s what I recommend:
- Class A: wood and paper, normal combustible items
- Class B: flammable liquids (gasoline, oil, etc)
- Class C: electrical fires
- Class D: flammable metals
I recommend performing an assessment of the type of fires you could potentially start in your workshop. Keep as many fire extinguishers as you need. Label the wall above each extinguisher, to make it obvious which type of extinguisher should be used under each scenario. Check them quarterly, when you check your smoke detectors, and replace the fire extinguishers as they expire.
First Aid Kit
Should you become injured, you’re going to need a first aid kit. You can make your own or buy one pre-assembled. It should include, among other things, absorbent dressings, bandages, antiseptic wipes, aspirin, gloves, scissors, gauze roller and bandage roller.
Personalize your first aid kit to your needs. For example, if you regularly do activities that involve fire or extreme heat (like welding), burn spray and burn gel would be good items to include in your first aid kit. If you’ve never applied any of these remedies in the past, keep the instructions for each product in the first aid kit, so you’ll know what to do when the time comes to use it.
Check your first aid kit at the same time you check the fire extinguishers, to see if anything has been used up or expired. This is especially important if you’re not the only person who has access to it. Replace items in your first aid kit as needed.
Eye Wash Station
If you have a utility sink in your home, you can create your own eye wash station. Eye wash station attachments are available for sale in hardware stores and home improvement centers. If you don’t want to attach such a thing to your utility sink, you can also buy a portable eye wash station, which can serve the same purpose.
If you do a lot of cleaning or working with harsh chemicals, an eye wash station could prevent serious damage. Try it out at least once to ensure that you know how, so you can get down to the business of using it properly when the need arises.
How to Set Up a Workshop with Safety in Mind
Make your workshop as safe as possible! These tips will help.
- Keep your safety gear in easy reach.
- Keep multiples of your safety gear on hand if you often do DIY projects with family members or friends.
- If your children help you with your DIY projects, keep safety gear in their size.
- Make a checklist of safety gear, and periodically check the items off your list to ensure that you can find them.
As soon as you’ve damaged used an item up, replace that item. If you use an item that is known to be disposable, dispose of that item after the first use.
How to Find Quality Safety Equipment
Inspect all safety equipment carefully before buying something. If safety gear reviews are available online, read the reviews. A lot of safety equipment is rated for protection against specific hazards, like the way ear plugs that are rated for protection against a certain number of decibels.
Read the packaging before purchasing your safety equipment. If no safety rating is given, or if the package can provide no information about the ways that product will protect you, this is a sign that the product is not designed for safety.
Ok, that’s my safety apparel advice. Injuries are no fun, so practice safety with every project. Good luck and be safe!