Path To Craftsmanship: Don’t Buy Awful Safety Gear

A while back I tried to make a case for good safety disciple as a habit that, when proactively pursued, can actually increase the quality of your work as a side effect. In those comments and in other comments since then I’ve noticed that some people really hate safety gear. Now some of them hated them for a philosophical reason, “Ma granpap didn’t need ’em, an’ I don’t neither”, or ,”Safety gear be contributin’ to the wuss’ness of the modern personage an’ the decline o’ society.” However, others really just found them terribly uncomfortable and restricting.

In this regard I can help a little. I’ve spent thousands of terrible long hours in safety gear working in the chemical industry. I was also fortunate to have a company who frequently searched for the best safety equipment as part of their regular program. I got to try out a lot.

For the years I wore a hardhat I never suffered an injury.
For the years I wore a hardhat I never suffered an injury. Pictured, one of my hardhats.

Eyes

Get a prescription pair of glasses made. Take all those god awful plastic wraparounds and throw them right in the garbage. They’re a great way cut off your thumb while wearing a hazy piece of fogged up consumer trash. I’ve tried everything from Harbor Freight to the fifty-dollars-a-pair kind. They are marginal improvements at best.

You don’t actually need a prescription to get prescription glasses. Most health insurance will cover at least one pair of glasses a year regardless of any visual impairment. I recommend getting a pair of metal frame ANSI rated safety glasses with the biggest and dorkiest lenses possible. They will come with side shields and I’d just leave these on. Do not get an anti glare coating. Get the scratch resistant coating only. The anti-glare claims that it can resist scratching, but only in a regular context, not an industrial one. I worked in an environment with a lot of aluminum oxide dust and my safety glasses are still scratch free, so they really hold up. They’re crystal clear and they can be worn for long hours.

Gerrit’s Guide To Cleaning Safety Glasses:

I’ve worked with some really abrasive stuff. This is how to properly clean safety glasses without damaging them.

  1. Absolutely do not touch or try to brush off any dirt from the lens. Compressed air will help in an emergency, but can also damage.
  2. Rinse lens under hot water. Do not rub the lens.
  3. Apply dish soap to lens. Scrub surface of both sides for each lens with fingers. Do not run under water during this step.
  4. Rinse hands of soap and then holding by the arms, rinse the glasses under hot water until all the soap is gone.
  5. Now, if you have access to it, I take one of those canned air blasters and blast the middle of the lense with air. This pushes all the water away and leaves you with a perfectly clean lens. Set aside to dry.

Eyes, Dust – Unless it’s really dusty there’s not much need for this. Regular glasses with side shields will keep a surprising amount of particulates away from the eyes. I really like the Uvex Stealth Over-The-Glasses goggles. Keep in mind that they scratch super easily. Buy a few replacement lenses and a cover unless you want to cut off your thumb.

Eyes and Face – The Horrible Freight full face shield is not a full face shield. It is a folder protector that someone glued to a headband. Real face shields are pretty thick and pretty heavy. The shield is replacable. Make sure to get the kind that has a click wheel strap (or that clips onto a hard hat if you need to wear a hardhat.

Hands

I used the leather pair for the same amount of time as the Hyflex.
I used the leather pair for the same amount of time as the Hyflex.

Hands, Regular Work – Don’t get leather gloves. Leather gloves are sweaty, have terrible feel, and typically have weird joints that cause callouses. I highly recommend a modern pair of kevlar cut-proof cloth gloves. My personal favorite are the Nitrile Coated Ansell Hyflex gloves. After a few hours adjustment I don’t even notice them even when doing fine work. I can type, write, etc. They come in lots of sizes — 9 or 10 fit most hands, but you can always go to the local industrial store and try some on to see.

Hands, Contamination, Fine Work – If you are worried about chemical contact or contaminating your work (i.e. getting finger oil on a lens) buying good quality disposable nitrile gloves is the way to go. It might be tempting to buy the pack of mystery blue gloves from Horrible Freight but they will just disappoint and tear. The better way to go is to buy the box of Nitrile gloves meant for medical exams. They have to resist cutting and tearing to ensure doctor and patient safety. They also have to give a lot of feedback to the doctor so they fit very well. I like the kind from Kimberly Clark, now Halyard.

I've spent hundreds of hours wearing this one. It's as comfy as they can get.
I’ve spent hundreds of hours wearing this one. It’s as comfy as they can get.

Respiration

To start with respirators I’m just going to give a list of tips. I’ve worn them for twelve hours at a time and there’s quite a bit that can go wrong and make them uncomfortable.

  1. Do not wear a respirator without a head covering. I personally like to use a welding cap to cover my head. Otherwise the plastic straps will cut into your scalp and pull at your hair after a few hours.
  2. Do not overtighten the straps. Tight straps do not equal good seal. It will just warp the gasket and hurt your head at the same time. Hold your hands over the intakes and suck in air If it glues to your face that’s enough seal. Next hold your hand over the exhaust and put light pressure on it. If it holds that pressure without obviously blowing somewhere it’s probably a good tightness and in good working order.
  3. Get the right size. Most people (guys especially) go for a too large size. It’s actually fairly cheap to go to an occupational health place and have them do a fit test. If you have the wrong size it won’t seal and it will hurt.
  4. Use the lightest filter possible. If all you are doing is cutting wood or working with regular dust you only need the P100 cloth filters. They are light and are easy to breath through. If you use a chemical filter or a heavy dust filter without good reason you’re pretty much throwing money away and being uncomfortable for no reason.
  5. Put the equipment on in the right order. Put on a head covering first. Follow that with the respirator. Put safety glasses on and hardhat last. This keeps the elastic straps from pressing your glasses onto your head uncomfortably. It makes a surprising difference.
  6. Clean it often. I carried around a small bottle of dawn dish detergent and would regularly wash my respirator. The salt from sweat and fine dust can build up to irritate the skin at the gasket. They can also get smelly.
  7. For those with beards- Keep a light stubble: Being absolutely clean shaven with a respirator is recommended by the manual but hell on the skin. It will irritate everything. I recommend having a light stubble.
  8. Chew gum if you’re not working with hazardous materials, brush your teeth often otherwise. – If you’re wearing a respirator for a long stretch of time you will experience new levels of awful breath and an awful taste that’s all yours to enjoy.
  9. Check it for wear. The respirator has really thin silicone gaskets that seal the intake and exhaust. These will eventually wear out. You can order new ones or just throw the respirator away. There’s no point in wearing it if it doesn’t work. If the exhaust is broken you’ll breath in dust. If the intake is broken you’ll breath moisture into your filter and ruin it/have a really bad time breathing.

Lastly on the respirator side a good quality one will obviously help a lot. I like the 3M Professional Half-Face. It has a silicone gasket instead of a harder urethane rubber one. It doesn’t need nearly as much force to seal properly and is just plain more comfortable.

I will not lie to you. Wearing this for 12 hours straight sucks.
I will not lie to you. Wearing this for 12 hours straight sucks.

Also don’t buy a full face unless you really need one. They suck. You’re not in war and you’re likely not working with a highly toxic dust. If you are you’re probably trained, have to put on a lot of protective lotion, duct tape the seams to everything, wear full tyvek, keeping clothes at work, and showering after every shift. If you really need full face protection and a respirator at the same time wear a full face shield over a half face. It’s cooler and works the same.

Outer Wear and More

Fire, Dirt, Grime, and Cleanliness – Buying a nice Nomex jumpsuit is a great investment. They’re a little pricey but they’re fire resistant and last forever. You can also keep your clothes much much cleaner. I recommend the 4oz weight fabric. It’s very light and cool. You may be tempted to buy a heavier cloth but it’s not worth the money unless you’re somewhere cold. Even so you can just wear a jacket underneath. Not everyone needs fire resistant clothing, but if you’ve ever been to a hackerspace it’s not a bad plan. Keep in mind that the FR cotton is just coated and will lose its resistance after a few washes. Personally I’ve found SafTech to have the best fit and assortment of pockets.

Tyvek– Every now and then you really need to avoid what you’re working on. Unless you’re at a crime scene don’t buy the heaviest tyvek suit you can. Look for words like breathable. Also, wearing a size up in tyvek is much preferable to wearing the exact size or a size down.

One of these is blister and sore shoulder city.
One of these is blister and sore shoulder city.

Fall Harness – If you find yourself needing a fall harness do not buy the fancy one with all the padding and crap. They are extremely uncomfortable. The simple strap harness is lightweight, flexible and comfortable. The only exception to this rule is if you are going to be leaning back against the harness all day for climbs. Falling hurts no matter what. The padding won’t save you that much pain.

Boots – Buy good quality boots and learn to take care of them. My personal favorites are Red Wing (insiste on their Made in USA line) and for a cheaper and higher quality boot, Thorogood. Don’t get a boot that look like a performance sneaker with all sorts of cloth crap everywhere. They wear out fast and stay dirty. The outside should be just leather.

Make sure the boots have a heel if you’re going to be climbing a ladder with them or entering a heavy construction site. It actually does help with climbing ladders and not falling on your ass at a job site. Likewise, a non-slip sole is great. It’s amazing how quickly a seemingly grippy boot sole can turn to teflon when in contact with soap or oil.

Do not buy winter boots unless you are really really going to be working in winter. You will sweat so bad. I’ve worked in some really cold winters with regular boots and just wore two socks. However. I will say that if you buy regular boots with a steel toe and expect to work in the cold your toes will freeze. A composite hard toe is a must if you are going to be working the cold. Actually, if composite is an option just get it because it’s so much lighter.

Also, look for something called a GoodYear welt. This means that not only is your boot waterproof-able it is also serviceable. If you drop 110-300 dollars on a boot you should be able to get around five years or more of service out of it if you get the soles replaced. Also, replace the insoles every six months. Any environment that needs a boot is likely to be super hard on insoles. I like the Dr. Scholl’s Work. It’s cheap enough that I don’t hate replacing it and it’s fairly comfortable for lots of standing and work.

Last. Learn to take care of your boot. Make sure you loosen the laces and dry the inside after each wear. Also regularly clean and oil the leather. It makes the boot tougher and keeps it waterproof/resistant. I really like Obenauf’s LP. It darkens the leather a bit but it makes it indestructible.

Guard Your Melon

The round style is great if you'll be working in the rain or dirt. Worse for sitting in a car or confined space.
The bucket style is great if you’ll be working in the rain or dirt. Worse for sitting in a car or confined space entry. Don’t forget to personalize!

Hard Hats – The hardhats themselves are more or less a matter of style. I think the regular plastic cap kind is pretty good for most everything. The bucket kind with the brim all the way around is great in dusty environments or when you might be working in rain, but you can never lean against anything or sit in a car comfortably with one on. The real secret to a comfortable hard hat is to get a click wheel harness for the inside. If you have to pull on any straps or slot any pegs into any holes just throw it in the garbage. Pain in the ass.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Hearing– Most people hate hearing protection the most. I don’t really understand why. Good hearing protection isn’t necessarily an ‘all sounds volume reducer’ it’s more of a ‘damaging sounds filter’. I find it considerably easier to hear my coworkers in a noisy environment while wearing hearing protection than without. Also, hearing is definitely the most unrepairable organ in your body. Any part of it you lose will be gone for good. You’re not getting it back.

Buying a nice pair of fitted hearing protection is nice, but not necessary. I’d go to an industrial store and buy a few samples of the different kinds. I really like 3M E-A-Rsoft Yellow Neon Blasts Corded or Howard Leight LL-1-D Laser Lite Corded. The cord doesn’t really get in the way and lets you hang them around your neck when you’re in a quiet space. I’ve worn them for days on end and they don’t hurt. Make sure to read the instructions, it makes a difference in how comfortable they are.

DO NOT BUY HARBOR FREIGHT EAR MUFFS. They are not rated. They don’t protect your ears. They are a waste of money. 3M makes a nice pair. These can be used instead of earplugs for light noise. If you are in a really heavy noise area like right beside a diesel generator all day then double up. Plugs and Muffs.

This is just a general advice, but getting a hearing baseline done each year isn’t a bad plan. It helps you tell if you need to change a safety habit.

Other General Tips:

Apply liberally.
Apply liberally.

If you are getting the slightest rash or blister from your equipment I highly recommend keeping a stick of Body Glide around.  It’s meant to keep clothing from giving you a rash when you run, but whatever black magic is in this will also keep straps, gloves, etc from irritating your skin. It doesn’t really leave much of a feeling and washes off with soap.

Buy good underwear. If you’re going to be really working in heavy industry then don’t fall for Big Box Store Specials. Performance underwear makes a huge difference for both genders.

Last of all. Store and care for it properly. Safety gear isn’t cheap and the better repaired it is the more comfortable it will be.

Modern medicine has taught us just how fragile our bodies are while simultaneously increasing its ability to repair us. Many of us simply don’t expect to die from a critical injury anymore. We expect our hands to be repaired. Our eyes to be expendable. Our ears to be easily aided and coaxed back into their full range. This expectation is wrong. I’ve worked in heavy industry and seen the road to recovery. I grew up with an occupational therapist and watched her coax back use into a damage limb over painful months. You will get some of your vision back if you’re lucky. Some of your hand’s range of motion. Maybe enough hearing to get around. It won’t all come back and the technology to do that is medical likely still fifty or more years out.

It’s important to cultivate not just a discipline for Safety equipment, but a love for it. One should be overcome with a profound sense of unease deep in their subconscious when their equipment isn’t in perfect order. All it takes is one stray metal shard and the days of clear vision will be gone. This is not hyperbole. Learning to love your safety gear and having good safety gear is an important skill for a craftsman to have.

Now these recommendations are from my personal experience. What about the rest? Do any of you have recommendations for specific work? Anything from electronics to welding, home work to full industrial, we want to hear your experiences, woes, and recommendations for making safety gear a part of your life.

70 thoughts on “Path To Craftsmanship: Don’t Buy Awful Safety Gear

  1. One thing I would add is the proper glove material selection and rotation when working with chemicals. Swelling can render even the right glove vulnerable to a tear. As for masks, MSA has a fitting protocol and a selection of geometries available to conform to various faces – not only do these make a better seal, but a proper fit is far more comfortable over a long shift.

    1. Now there’s an interesting line of teardowns for someone.

      There was a post on imgur the other day from some dude who got smashed off his motorbike by a car, major head damage but (eventually) came out OK. He was wearing a no-brand helmet, there were comments from other bikers about the damage he sustained being way above what they’d expect from a decent make.

      Mate of mine swears the only reason he can still walk is that he was wearing AlpineStars when he went over the Volvo…

  2. “Do not wear a respirator without a head covering. I personally like to use a welding cap to cover my head. Otherwise the plastic straps will cut into your scalp and pull at your hair after a few hours.”
    I wonder if this (like earplugs) is a matter of preference or dependent on the straps themselves as the respirator I wear hasn’t caused me any issues without the need for additional padding. It’s some Scott one with a open-skull-cap thing (I can’t quite tell if the one in the photo above has one – it does look very similar) and so does spread the pressure around a bit (it also helps not needing to tighten it up excessively).

    Oh and on the earplugs thing – while I’ve never had a problem with them I’ve met quite a few people who really struggled when they first started using them either from struggling to insert them, bad fitting making them uncomfortable longer term, not finding ones that are suitable for their ear canals or just finding how it all sounds a bit ‘freaky’ (even if you are healthy you may not like hearing your body creak as much as it sounds when one has earplugs in)

    1. Preference IMHO.
      I have the exact same 3M respirator as pictured and have no need for hair covering.
      It’s also fine clean shaven without irritation.
      I have a lighter weight fabric mask (sand storm mask) for cutting wood and metal, I use the 3M for painting and sanding.

      Ear plugs tho I’ve never found headphones that fit (usually swapping L R around works best) I don’t have an issue.

      I finally got some good eye glasses from a trade show I was at, they were in the $30 range but I was lucky enough to talk myself into a freebie. Everything I’d tried up to that point just misted up.

      Something not mentioned but a tip I picked up (possible from here) is that the glasses protect your eyes, but you still wear them with a face shield because it’s a face shield not an eye shield. Especially when doing something like grinding.

      Part of the challenge is getting that 3M, your bud or muffs, the glasses and the face shield to all live happily on your head at one time. :)

      PS, all my grinders are DIY modded for their always on switch to be a “dead mans switch” ie: must be pushed constantly to turn on,
      Because the standard ones can be tricky to turn off in an emergency ie: wrapping your clothing around the spinning wire wheel.
      Without the power to the motor and with friction against the wheel they spin down fast enough.
      It can be annoying at times but it’s far more safe.

      PPS. TV has a lot to answer for with the populist shows on motoring and diy with guys in vest tops grinding and welding without any safety gear. I figured OSHA (sp?) would have gone after them stateside but clearly not.

      1. It’s such a common misconception that a face shield replaces safety glasses. If you read the fine print you will be hard pressed to find a face shield that is designed not to be used with safety glasses.

      2. Being clean shaven or not I think depends on what you are working with. When I was powder coating the sealing area would get powder on it and wear on your skin, unless you hadn’t shaved for a while.

        1. Every respirator manufacturer as well as OSHA regulations state that you should be clean shaven in order to get the best seal on your respirator. Anything other than clean shaven is not considered within compliance and will earn you an OSHA citation.
          Additionally, you should wipe down the gasket prior to putting it on to prevent wear & again, get a good seal.

          1. It was trailer company, so OSHA compliance was not really where it should have been. I quit after two months for that very reason. Unmaintained overhead rollers for trailers, improper respirator, crushed jack stands still in use, rupturing air hoses and shorting electrical cords from forklifts running them over, repeatedly walking fifteen feet into a four hundred degree oven and pulling out a trailer with no ppe… The list goes on. Really not worth twelve dollars an hour.

  3. safety harnesses and climbing rigs for industrial use are different things.
    you are probably right that if all it needs to do is arrest your fall then there is no need to buy something padded or fancy, but i would go for something with both a front and back structural hook, it will allow for more manoeuvring options, please note that not all hooks on a harness are rated for full structure, there may be auxiliary hooks for guides, tools, pouches and the like.

    if you are going to be supported by the harness for any length of time then padding is a must, fit is as important as that on a respirator or a set of diving goggles, tiny differences matter, a bit of folded clothes under a pad can be a real killer, so check the fit of both your clothes and rig before using it.

    for hours of work in a harness there is little that beats the comfort of a proper integrated seat, there are many variants but try to get one that doesnt obstruct normal climbing and has as direct a path to the structural hooks as possible.

    i worked in the wind turbine industry as an installation technician, the main high voltage cable and all of the smaller cables were at that point in time manually fastened using cable ties placed 100mm apart down through the tower, doing it properly took hours and was more comfortably done not on the ladder, but outside it, hanging from robes above and with your safety runner keeping you loosely toward the ladder while you work with your legs planted on the ladder as if it was a rock wall, that way most of your mass is supported from above instead of through your legs with a fall arrest for safety on the harness.

      1. Nah, just the cables carrying the power. The tower itself is held together with (literally) tons of bolts.

        I bet you would be really freaked out to find out that there’s no insulator on high voltage power lines (unless you count “air”).

      2. that, cable support socks, brackets and several moving brackets for taking up the various movement is usually all that holds the hv cable, that said the cable ties are rated for quite a bit, the cable itself can be over 100kg pr meter.

        example of socks

        the towers themselves are held by hundreds of high torqued bolts (from a few hundred per flange in the bottom to around a hundred at the nacelle flange(this is of course different from model to model)
        during tower erection there will be people climbing the tower with a few impact wrenches and a dozen bits, standing inside a metal tunnel with several of those going off is one of the worst soundscapes i have had the misfortune of being in, double ear protection and laryngophones are a must for crane coordination.

  4. Great to see these tips — I wish I had known some of these 25 years ago. I did a brief stint at at environmental engineering company. I mostly did computer work, running data analysis, generating charts and graphs (oh how I miss the Wingz spreadsheet sometimes), and writing up compliance reports. But sometimes the bosses required me to go out into the field and help with the actual testing. We did air quality tests at a variety of companies — paper mills, power plants, a rock aggregate plant (they made insulating materials), and chemical companies.

    Most places, we didn’t have to worry too much about extra safety equipment. Except for the chemical plants and power plants. At the least, we were supposed to wear coveralls, gloves, and face masks with air filters. But if you know anything about South Alabama in the summer, you might guess that that crap gets hot in a hurry. So on one of the times that I had to go to a power plant in July, it didn’t take long before we ended up ditching the coveralls. I think we mostly kept our masks on, but we were sweating so much that we’d remove them occasionally to wipe the moisture out.

    So I mentioned that this was a power plant. With coal. And coal contains lots of sulphur (one of the things we were testing for, to be sure). So basically, we’ve got a port open in the side of this smokestack to keep a sensor probe in the air stream, and there’s hot gas blowing out at us. Hot gaseous sulphur plus moist air equals a little bit of (weakish) sulphuric acid. By the end of the testing, we were coughing like chain smokers. And when I got home, I discovered that my jeans and tee shirt had developed many small holes, and the fabric around the holes would crumble when rubbed. I think my shoelaces were weakened as well, but not as much since they didn’t have sweat moisture soaked into them to glom onto the sulphur, and they weren’t directly in the air stream like my torso and upper legs were. I ended up having to throw all my clothes from that day away.

    So anyhow, I guess the point of this, boys and girls, is that safety equipment is indeed important, and if more comfortable safety equipment will help you keep it on more often or for longer, then that’s a good thing.

      1. Depends. A full face respirator is not much different from a gas mask. What cartridges you use play a bigger role. Military gas masks might have slightly larger filters to make running possible for at least a couple steps.

  5. “It’s as comfy as they can get.”
    Probably because it is missing the actual cartridges in that photo. :)

    Worth pointing out that rinsing with distilled, deionized or RO filtered water helps avoid leaving residues on your lens, especially if you just blow on it to semi dry it off.

    Buying Harbor Freight anything is not good advice. Buying Harbor Freight safety gear? Yeah.

    1. The items at Chain Store(TM) are generally not made by them, and are exactly the same as items of the same name and model number purchased at another store.

      Chain Store(TM) may have the lowest priced low priced model, but if your eyes drift upwards you might notice that they also have mid priced, regular quality items for sale. Even complicated, expensive, motorized equipment. Even fancy gloves! And ropes with load ratings verified by insurance test labs.

        1. @Internet
          Yeah, when you need a bizarre size socket or a crowbar or whatever right damn now, harbor freight is a godsend. But unless you know exactly what model you’re dealing with, I wouldn’t trust their safety equipment. Or their car jacks. D:

  6. You’re not supposed to put stickers on hard hats. I know – I know, fuck that and you’re going to anyway… But really, you’re not supposed to do it. You’re supposed to inspect your gear before using it, and a small crack that you didn’t see because you had a kitten sticker over that spot could cost you your brain later when someone kicks a large spud wrench off the tower 200 feet above your head…

    And I would refer to OSHA and my workplace safety rules over HaD any day of the week for this information.

    At home? I have a decent pair of Stanley safety glasses that are ANSI rated just the same as my pair at work, don’t hurt my face and keep shit out of my eyes. No need to bug my eye doctor for birth control glasses.

    Don’t pick up the hot end of the soldering iron, which tends to be pointier than the safe end and a lot less hot.

    Don’t chew on solder, it’s not gum.

    Sharp things can cut you, but not if you aren’t stupid. But even smart people will get cut now and then, depends on how they treat me and my mood that day.

    Adjustable wrenches are nicknamed “knuckle busters” for a reason… But will still end up being your most used tool.

    Band saws and table saws can remove digits in the blink of an eye, so don’t blink your good one. As for me, they keep hiring interns and co-ops around here, so I still have all 10 fingers and toes so far.

    Having 5 or more legs on your office chair IS A MUST. No, seriously…. it is.

    1. Places I work, stickers on a hard hat are a no-no as well. But in our case it’s related to fire safety. How flammable is a hard hat? I don’t know, but the manufacturer sure does. How flammable are your kitten stickers?

    2. Ya, the chemical plants give you stickers that you have to put on your hat or you can’t get in. They indicate that you’ve done the safety training. You’re also supposed to replace the hat/webbing yearly and after any impact. Not sure what I could have done.

    3. That spud wrench falling from 200 feet above is likely to seriously injure or kill you anyway. A hard hat is NOT intended to save you from falling debris. Sure, it’ll help a lot from lighter stuff but it won’t protect you from something as heavy as a spud wrench!. Hard hats are usually refered to as bump-hats over here (Netherlands) as their main purpose is to protect you from smacking/cutting your head into things you didn’t notice.

    4. I would think that if you have a small crack in a hardhat (of a type that cracks along such cracks) then if something fall on it and it cracks the cracking will be too late for the object to do more harm, I mean it’s a short time impact and the crack follows later.
      So that would be more an issue if a car drove over your head or something. but I don’t expect a hardhat will help much anyway in that case.

  7. Good article. I’d add for anything professional a face fit for a respirator is a must. You also should try and get better protection than a negative pressure respirator for periods of over 30min. If you have a beard I would expect at least powered hood (depending on the hazardous substance). I usually carry a 3M ffp3 disposable respirator in my hard hat for when emergencies might dictate (chance of unexpected asbestos exposure)

    Hearing protection is very personal, I prefer Peltor muffs and I have multi use in ear Howard Leight QD1, easy to fit and comfortable for me. My hard hat has Peltor muffs attached. As an aside It is very hard to for most people to fit 3M E-A-R properly fist time.

    Fully agree on kevlar and nitrile gloves and eye protection. My kevlar gloves let me hold hotter things and give great grip just for carrying light things like theatre lights. Also make sure you hands are in good condition. On occasion I have used barrier cream/moisturiser to maintain the skin/last line of defence. I rarely touch anything hazardous now.

    If footwear says it is non slip I wouldn’t take it at its word. Test it.

    1. No-slip footwear for sale in my area only seems to score about 25% in my experience.

      If you need no-slip, don’t take chances, find a model that works for you that you can order online because the market quality is getting really low in some places.

  8. I did a bit of painting at a previous job, and had to wear a full face, supplied air respirator for that job. Not particularly portable, but way more comfortable than a typical mask since you’re not trying to pull air through a filter or supporting very much weight on your head.

  9. While I certainly agree about the need for proper safety gear of good quality, it needs to be put in perspective. I often use HF ear muffs and safety glasses when I’m mowing the lawn, using a leaf blower, etc. I have better gear which I use when conditions require it. I’d rather have lots of cheap HF stuff everywhere so I have something than not have anything because the high quality gear is not at hand. Just about anything is better than nothing.

    The most important thing is to understand the risks and address them properly. I regularly wash the controls on my truck and always after I’ve been using pesticides and herbicides. And I always wash my hands with soap and water before I eat or handle food.

    I do on occasion strike a blow with a hammer or similar without safety glasses. On such very rare occasions I close my eyes just before the hammer hits. All the gear in the world is not a substitute for situational awareness. The most important safety equipment is in between your ears. Think!

  10. I read through the comments and notice a little discord. A lot is opinion, like preferred hearing protection or head cover under straps, and some is personal experience, and a bit is just wrong.

    In the US, in industry, read the rules. All of the rules that apply to your industry. 1910 is for everyone, pretty much, but also 1917, 1926, and several other parts of 29 CFR that are industry dependent. They are NOT all mutually consistent, nor even self consistent. For example, the fall protection rules are contradictory in a couple places, and appear to be, but aren’t, in others (powered man lift, for example, where there is a difference between fall protection and restraint systems)

    I have had arguments with plant safety reps and contract safety reps (from contract services) over a good number of things. Iv’e sometimes learned something, but usually won by checking the code first. My favourite was hardhats: Mr Safety threw a fit that the brim must be on the front, because the brim is to protect your nose. He was shocked to learn that: for most designs, the brim is only intended to serve the same purpose as on a baseball cap (shade), and that most hardhats can be worn either way, and is actually marked if it can.

    The best guide, even in industry, is that safety gear must be comfortable to be used, and that you need to analyze each situation to determine what, if any, gear is needed. Sometimes, the gear can actually increase risk, especially if improperly used.

    1. Ya, I read the manuals for everything. I was interested to see that some of the hardhats had instructions for reversing while others implied that it would be impossible for this model. So I guess read the guide. I felt like the brim kept dust from falling into my eyes through the top of my glasses when I walked on scaffolding.

      1. That the brim does, but it is a comfort feature in most cases. For a lot of things, turning it so the brim is in back increases comfort, or allows for use of other gear (like a faceshield) without obstruction, or, for that matter, shades the back of your neck from the sun. In the US, it’s all in the symbols and standards on the inside of the shell. Nobody should confuse a bump cap with a hardhat, either. One protects from falling debris or getting rapped by an errant hammer head, the other is for use in tight spaces where the risk is bumping your head on a corner or a low obstruction.

    2. Some believe hard hat brims are meant to be on the back to protect the part of your neck known as your spine, so when you are looking down at your work, which is more often unless guiding cranes and watching birds are in your job description, and jimmy drops a small sledge hammer, it might bounce off the brim rather than crack your neck. I just think it looks silly, personally.

    3. So long as the harness inside the hardhat is also reversed any rated hard hat can be worn backwards and offer the rated protection.
      Oftentimes, what is written in the plant safety code is treated by OSHA as law. If OSHA doesn’t have a stance on the topic but your company does that company ruling is law as far as inspectors are concerned.
      > For example, the fall protection rules are contradictory in a couple places…..
      Without specifics, I bet these contradictions are due to different industries being involved. Construction jobs have different regs than heavy industry, which is different than mining. Fall protection in particular.

  11. Is it even legal to tell people not to buy a particular brand? I mean obviously it is OK to say you think it is bad or whatever. But warning people that a product is fake when the product is actually still available for sale might be more aggressive behavior than is wise for a publisher.

    Also, for people who can’t afford expensive ones it might have unintended consequences, like discouraging them from selecting the best equipment that they can actually get, or discouraging them from using it at all; after all, it if is fake and doesn’t even work, and that’s the only one you have access to, why even put it on? Except that it does work, it is just doesn’t do as much as other ones.

    If it actually has the brand of the store on the label and the store in the USA, then most likely either the product was made in the USA, in which case the manufacturer has insurance, or the store imported it themselves, and is responsible for it, and has insurance to cover that. And if it is covered by US insurance, and it is sold as safety equipment, it has probably actually been tested. If it doesn’t have a rating, that means it isn’t suitable for uses where you need a specific rating; it might still be generally useful for common uses.

    It might be a lot better to just plug the one you like and leave it at that.

      1. The foldable ones (# item#94334 ) are listed as ANSI rated (25dB) on their site. As are item#43768 (23dB) and item#97849 (25dB, ANSI & OSHA).
        Not sure which ones you’re looking at Gerritt.

    1. If there’s an ANSI rating on it the product should be fine.
      But not everyone looks for those and I’m sure there are other certification issuers. The danger comes from buying a product thinking it will protect you from danger and becoming overconfident. Like using an N95 for VOCs because a respirator is a respirator right?
      Using an unrated product can do more damage than not using it because the user thinks they’re protected and undertakes tasks they wouldn’t do unprotected. Or even using EarPro that barely meets the spec because it’s cheap compared to that which greatly exceeds the spec for $10 more.
      Your cochlear implants are gonna cost a lot more than $10, buy the good muffs and/or plugs.

  12. The gloves part should explicitly warn about using leather or fabric gloves when working with rotating stationary tools – lathes, mills drill presses and such…
    Same problem as with loose sleeves, it gives the machine something to easily grab onto and pull you in!

    btw I personally use cheap plastic goggles for home hacking, I just pick the kind that doesn’t distort the view. If they become scratched -> get new ones, they’re dirt cheap. Also, I pick the ones that feel comfy…

    1. This, I read the comments just to make someone had mentioned no fabric/leather gloves around rotating spindles. Its easy to find grizly photos of a lathe or mill that has pulled someone in to the workpiece or the leadscrew etc.

      I don’t even like wearing the nitrile ones, but at the moment the skin on my right hand and arm is 5 weeks old after being steam burnt off in a car accident (rad explosion into cab on a forward seated vehicle) so I’m having to do the blue nitrile thing as the new skin is very prone to tearing/environmental contamination. You get to realize how badly made and what weird seams different types of gloves have inside really quickly when after a hour of wearing them you find the sides of your fingers with no skin on them!
      ..

      1. I suppose they could make leather/fabric ones with tearable seams along the edges made from another material, that should allow them to be ‘jettisoned’ .
        Like those clothes strippers sometimes wear..

  13. You left out eye protection for lasers/welding equipment. Don’t get cheap here – as our safety guy said “are you going to bet your eyesight on those $20 laser glasses you just got?” They’re still in the box. The $200 ones are total chick-magnets…

    Ditto welding goggles/glasses. Get the right tint and proper glasses – I don’t think regular sunglasses will do for blue-wrench work over long periods. I’ve heard glassblowers get cataracts after a while.

    1. Left out the part about arc-welding. That’s mostly obvious but it’s easy to go shades too light if you’re a noob – if your eyes hurt or you have a headache after day one, pay attention. Also bring some basic goggles with you if you have an autodarken helmet. If the batteries quit, you’re in the dark and will be tempted to finish the job by squinting – definitely not worth it.

      1. For auto-darkening, I always advise welders to get the lightest auto-darkening helment they can find that requires no batteries. My first auto-dark. helmet had batteries that lasted quite a while, but it was noticeably heavier than a non-auto-dark helmet. After spending quite a bit of time on ebay, I compared a lot of helmets’ weight and bought the lightest one that wasn’t outrageously priced (I think it was around $45-60, I can’t remember, it was 5 years ago). It’s served me very well, and getting the lightest one made a huge difference in how my neck felt at the end of the day after hours of fabrication work.

      1. I know you’re joking, but for those who don’t know: when it comes to arc welding the danger is from UV. Autodimming masks have a UV coating that blocks 100% of UV all the time. You’re not getting a small dose every time before the panel darkens. I know some people who worried about and put up with old-school always dark masks for far too long.

  14. Funny thing on the hard hats… the full brim ones are rare as bloody hens teeth here in Australia. I’d have thought they’d be more popular as they provide decent shade on their own, but around here (particularly here in Queensland: skin cancer capital), the preference seems to be for caps, often with a separate brim attached.

    Back around 2007 I went looking for one for a project, the only ones I could get were MSA ones (nothing wrong with that) and very few places sold them. A few years ago, a second manufacturer (Unisafe) had entered the Australian market with one. ProSafe recently have come out with one (vented too). None of these are slotted for accessories, and almost all none of them feature the rotating ratchet style harnesses mentioned.

    So choice is going to be largely down to what you can get hold of.

  15. If anyone has small amounts of nasty vapours to get rid of there are compact microwave plasma incinerators.

    They are also relatively simple and could be a DIY project. Getting the geometric data for the tapered wave-guide assembly would be the key step, the rest is basic electronics and metal fabrication.

    N.B. This will not remove toxic elements such as chlorine but will destroy any organic molecule, so the output from it still needs to go into a trap such as a two stage acid alkaline system which should turn your problem elements into salts in solution. But if you are just dealing with solvents etc. the basic microwave could be ideal.

  16. Depending on what you do, kneepads are a consideration. After one summer on concrete without them, I swear my kneecaps either ground down or relocated.Sure, there are a lot of good options available at your local hardware store, but look at options made for sorts as well. Personally I do some jobs that require kneeling on cement or gravel for hours at a time, so regular kneepads didn’t do the trick. I then stated using hockey knee/shin guards (Mylec Deck) with hard plastic shin guards as well, and the bindings are stretchy enough to fit over insulated coveralls.

  17. Putting stickers on your helmet is the worst thing you can do to it. The glue, often made of some sort of petrol-based stuff, may cause cracks in your helmet, not always visible by the eye. At our plant those helmets are not allowed. So keep your nice cats and American flags off your helmet. Cracks make your helmet less impact-resistant, your employer might be held responsible for that, if not you.

    1. Sounds impressive, but have you ever actually seen anybody with cracks in his helmet from a sticker? This kind of story sounds like the typical theoretical stuff that people latch onto for decades without anybody ever checking if it’s true in reality.
      Same with that ‘they can catch fire’ thing someone else mentioned, seriously if your sticker catches fire your skin will already warned you by having fallen off your face. And even if they did, they would burn for 3 seconds and be extinguishable by patting them a second. It all seems like ‘horror stories from the workplace campfire’.

  18. I haven’t seen much here about chemical-splash goggles, but if/when they are warranted, get a good pair. Chemical splash goggles have indirect vents (unlike shop goggles which are often vented with holes drilled in the sides or top) such that air is supposed to get in, but liquids can’t—or at least not easily—unlike safety glasses. Cheap goggles have a low volume and the indirect vents generally suck (technical term). Low volume means they fog quickly, and poor indirect vents don’t help the situation.

    Thirty-four years of teaching university chemistry, and have watched thousands of students deal with and complain about cheap goggles from the local big-box.

  19. An added note for safety glasses I would make is that the most important place to check for good contour/closing is at the bottom edge. When buying glasses just check that they leave as little gap as possible at the bottom. The sides (for me atleast are pretty much always okay on all models and the top is usually closed off by a cap or helmet. But the bottom is where things can get nasty. I’ve had a grinding spark bounce up from the bottom, between a set of cheap safety glasses (at the time I didn’t know better) and my face and straight into my eye. Spent the rest of the afternoon at the local doctors office, then at the local hospitals eye specialist hoping they wouldn’t have to drill the remains out of my eyes.

    In the end I got away with some eye numbing to stop the irritation, blurry vision for 2 days in one eye and a life lesson to get PROPER safety glasses next time I use a handheld angle grinder.

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