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DIY Safety Equipment 101

Filed Under: Tools, Essential Skills, Know-How

construction, safety equipmentCorbis

Make sure your protective gear is doing its job so you can do yours.

Working with power tools, ladders, and other dangers, even the most cautious DIYer can suffer an accident every now and again. So don't skimp when it comes to safety. Below, we've listed six of the most important pieces of safety equipment, and what you should look for when choosing them.


1. SAFETY GLASSES
With an alarming 2.4 million eye injuries happening in the U.S. every year -- 90% of which could be prevented by protective eyewear -- the question is really when shouldn't you wear them.

What to look for: Depending of the type of home improvement job there are two basic types of safety glasses to have on hand. If you're working with liquids (think paint thinner), opt for the goggle-like glasses that have a foam layer to shield against unwanted splashes. They'll also keep dust particles out of your eyes.

For all other projects, pick eyewear made of shatter-resistant plastic with side shields that'll keep your peepers safe from flying objects.

MRSA safety gogglesMSA Safety Works Splash-Resistant Safety Goggles. Photo: The Home Depot

What to buy:
MSA Safety Works Amber Straight Temple Safety Glasses

MSA Safety Works Splash-resistant Safety Goggles



2. WORK GLOVES
Bad news: There's no "one size fits all" glove for all of your DIY needs. That's because the gloves on the market today are made with materials so specialized they practically do the jobs themselves.

What to look for:

Depending on the chore at hand, you'll want to find a pair of gloves with one or more of these super fabrics. Choose spandex gloves when you want a form-fitting glove that'll give you lots of dexterity; Teflon gloves when you need to keep chemicals (like chlorine) away from your skin; Kevlar gloves will protect your hands from hot blades; and Thinsulate to for cold-weather protection without the bulk of fleece.

Size matters too, so pick longer arm-length gloves when you're doing yard work or dealing with plumbing jobs.

work glovesKlein Tools 40054 Journeyman Utility Gloves. Photo: Improvement Direct

What to buy:
Klein Tools Journeyman Utility Gloves

Milwaukee Demolition Work Gloves


3. DUST MASK
If your DIY job requires sweeping, paint fumes, yard work, sanding, or anything dealing with, well, dust, it's a good idea to don this type mask.

What to look for:
Looks can be deceiving but there's a key difference between a dust mask and a respirator. Masks that are marked with the N95 rating are designed to guard against airborne particles (like mold and lead) which is nice, but for home improvement work you need one that is designed to guard against non-toxic nuisance dusts.

Fit is important too, so choose a mask that is secure around your mouth and doesn't move when you tilt your head.

dust maskMSA Safety Works Dust Mask. Photo: The Home Depot

What to buy:
MSA Safety Works Pack of 5 Dust Mask


4. FACE SHEILD
Anytime you plug in a power tool that'll give off sparks or send wood chips flying, take it as your cue to put on a face shield. Not only will it protect your eyes and face, but wearing a shield will also help you stay focused on the project instead of dodging particles.

Shields count as secondary protection, so don't forget to wear eye protection too.

What to look for:
Opt for a shield made with a polycarbonate window that will resist high temperatures. Other than that, shop for comfort, since you'll be less likely to wear one that fits funny.

face maskMSA Safety Works No. 817893 Face Shield Assembly. Photo: The Home Depot

What to buy:
MSA Safety Works No. 817893 Face Shield Assembly


5. SAFETY SOUND MUFFS


When to wear:
The noise from most power tools is a lot louder than anything your ears are accustomed to hearing. Think of a chain saw, which has a decibel level of 110, in contrast to a vacuum cleaner, which gives off a comparatively quiet 70 decibels. Needless to say, it's wise to wear ear protection while doing those deafening chores.

What to look for:

When it comes to buying sound muffs, there aren't a ton of standards -- or bad choices. Pick a pair that has been given the NVLAP (National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program) stamp of approval to rest assure you're getting top-notch protection.

sound muffsAO Safety Stowaway Ear Muff. Photo: The Home Depot

What to buy:
AO Safety Stowaway Ear Muff


6. CONSTRUCTION HELMET
If you'd wear a helmet while riding your biking or rollerblading, why wouldn't you also wear one to work on the roof or during a major building project?

What to look for:

Construction helmets, or hard hats, come in several different types and classes for different types of jobs. Type 1 covers the top of your head only, while Type 2 provides protection for your ears and the sides of your head too. Class G (general) hard hats protect you from falling objects and low voltage (2200 volts). Class E (electrical) hard hats also protect against impact but also against high volatge -- up to 20,000 volts. Class C (conductive) hard hats provide impact protection but no voltage protection.

hard hatMSA Vanguard Protective Cap. Photo: MSA

What to buy:
MSA Vanguard Protective Cap (Types 1 & 2, Class E)
MSA Skullguard Protective Cap (Type 1, Class G)



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