Personal protective equipment (PPE) is not just for the professionals or for OSHA compliance. It is a necessary part of any home remodel and something that should be understood and budgeted for in your project.
Respiratory protection – There are many facets and levels of respiratory protection that need to be understood before tackling a home remodel project. These go from the most basic level of dust protection all the way to guarding against harmful carcinogens.
It is important to be aware of the possibility of asbestos-containing material during your home remodel (link to last blog). In addition to asbestos, lead paint can be disturbed during the demolition process. In general, drywall dust is a severe irritant and anyone around the removal of drywall should be using a respirator with a particulate filter.
Drywall dust can cause severe irritation in a short exposure window. Asbestos, lead, and mold can cause long-term illness. Make sure everyone who is around a home remodel is taking the necessary steps to prevent exposure with respiratory protection.
Eye protection – According to OSHA, thousands of people are blinded in work-related injuries that could have been prevented with proper eye protection. Many home remodelers believe their prescription glasses or sunglasses can protect them from an injury but this is not true. Proper eye protection will have Z87 stamped somewhere on the frame of the lens.
Using eye protection during a home remodel project is a must. Debris from demolition, flying debris from power tools and falling debris can all damage eyes. Most of these risks are continually present during a project, which means eye protection should be worn basically at all times.
Hand protection – Cuts, punctures, and chemical burns are all possible hazards of a home improvement project. The area of your body most susceptible to these injuries is your hands. It is important to handle each risk with the appropriate type of hand protection.
Are you planning on using chemicals to clean or strip paint during your home improvement project? If so, chemical-resistant rubber or latex gloves must be used to prevent burns or irritation on the skin.
In addition to possible chemical irritants, cuts and punctures are a major concern. A pair of cut-proof gloves are necessary for almost all home improvement projects.
Another aspect of hand protection is for the glove to fit properly. Loose-fitting gloves and clothing pose a significant risk. Loose material can get stuck in power tools and cause serious damage to the user.
Understanding the hierarchy of controls – While PPE is necessary for home remodeling work, it is important to understand where it sits on the hierarchy of controls. PPE is at the bottom and is the least effective part of the hierarchy of controls.
Reliance on PPE can make work more dangerous. Before starting a hazardous task, be sure to think about these questions. Is there a way the hazard can be eliminated? Is there a way to substitute for the hazard? Can you isolate yourself away from the hazard? Is there a way to change how people are working to avoid the hazard? The answers to these questions can drastically reduce the chance of a specific hazard harming a worker or homeowner.