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June 20, 2012

Tolbert Painting: DIY, the importance of personal protective equipment

by Joel Tolbert

Personal protective equipment or PPE is the barrier between you and injury. PPE can range from clothing to eye protection to gloves or kneepads. As a professional painter, I use PPE on a daily basis, so in this article I’m going to talk about some practical applications for the use of personal protective equipment in the home.

From head to toe:

Hat – A great piece of PPE is a Hat, one that preferably keeps the sun off of you. I regularly wear a sun hat or wide brim hat while working outdoors and believe it or not, extreme sunburn is a job related injury. How does this apply at the house? Unfortunately, no one is immune to the sun’s harmful, radioactive, cancer causing, UV rays. So this summer when you’re working outside, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a hat and applying sun block.

Eye Protection – Eye Protection seems like a no brainer.   You would be surprised how rarely I see it being used. When using power tools or anything that’s going to send flying debris into your Cornea, be sure to wear eye protection.   This also includes working with caustic materials like household cleaners and bleach. Eye protection in the form of tinted lenses, are important to wear when working out in the sun as they help to prevent Cataracts.

Ear Protection – Long-term exposure to continuous loud noises can cause lasting hearing loss. I highly recommend using ear protection when running any type of noisy equipment for even a short period of time. This could include electric or gas powered equipment.

Dust masks and Respirators – These are great in the field as they protect us from harmful dust being created in the prep process.   Respirators are used to protect us from harmful fumes when working with volatile compounds. I recommend using a dust mask to protect you from dust while cleaning or while doing yard work. I can tell you from experience that it only took me a couple of sinus infections for me to now wear one anytime I’m exposed to air born debris of any kind. A disposable Organic filter cartridge respirator can be purchased at any hardware or paint store.  A dust mask will not protect you from caustic fumes. If planning a project that includes exposure to a caustic breathing hazard, consult your local paint store on what precautions you can take. Closed quarters without proper ventilation or proper protection can produce a deadly environment with lethal consequences. If you have difficulty breathing while wearing any kind of mask, remove it immediately.

Gloves – These not only protect you from hand injuries like cuts and scrapes, they also prevent toxins from entering your blood stream through your skin. True, hand injuries are the number two most common of the reportable work injuries, however; exposing your circulatory system to foreign materials in my book is a close second. While working with caustic household materials; wear rubber gloves, not only will this keep your hands looking young but your kidneys as well. Leather Gloves should be worn while lifting heavy objects with sharp edges or working with any cut or scrape hazard like cutting tools or grinding tools. A bad scrape can be just as bad as a bad cut.

Knee Protection- My Aunt Dee is always raving about her new Titanium knee.  I’m sure it’s awesome, but I’m just not in a real big hurry to go out and get one, and so I use kneepads. Kneepads are great for doing work that’s near to the ground and it helps to prevent cartilage loss and wear and tear on your knees.   If you find knee pads uncomfortable or just as much of a pain to put on than what they prevent, I recommend a Foam Kneeling board (also great for quick little jobs like getting that one pesky weed, or putting that door stop back on).

Proper footwear -lets just say that flip-flops may not be the best choice of foot wear to mow the lawn or clean the gutters. That being said, a good work shoe is a sturdy leather shoe with ankle support.   Feet are usually injured when something falls on them and a sprained ankle isn’t any fun either so, when working outside be sure to have the proper footwear.

Stretching- Remember all those stretches from Gym class? It’s time for some review. The number one “on- the -job injury” is; Sprains and Strains. You may or may not be an athlete but if you’re going to do some work, you will be engaged in a physical activity, possibly using muscles you may not normally use. So to prevent any unwanted strains; stretch prior to work, use proper lifting techniques (avoid stress on your back) and if something is to heavy or awkward to carry, get help.

So now you’re ready to get out there and tackle all those summer projects.   Be safe and have fun


Joel Tolbert is a professional house painting contractor and owner of Tolbert Painting. You can reach him by email at [email protected]

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