Power tools make projects easier and often more precise than using ordinary handtools. But with their many benefits come serious safety concerns: power tools are responsible for tens of thousands of accidents each year, many which could have been avoided by using proper safety gear. The same safety logic applies to using portable welders and plasma cutters.
The point is, no matter how much we enjoy our home shop tools, we also need to have a healthy respect for them. That starts with knowing their limitations and taking some precautions before we start a project.
Let’s look at some of the most common types of safety gear that should be in every home shop. Safety gear doesn’t have to be expensive. But it should be certified by ANSI, OSHA, or another independent testing lab.
Common Injuries and Prevention
At home, we always leave a...
At home, we always leave a shop apron and safety glasses right by our bench grinder and never use it without them.
Eye injuries account for the most common type of serious accidents caused by power tools, welders, and plasma cutters. However, an operator isn’t the only one who needs to be safer. Bystanders should be protected against flying shards of metal, or welder’s flash as well.
It only takes seconds to put on a pair of safety glasses, a face shield, or a welding helmet, but sometimes people forget or cut corners and think they don’t need this gear for quick jobs. Don’t believe it. Eye injuries can happen faster than you can blink.
There’s a misconception that prescription glasses protect our eyes when using power tools like grinders. They really don’t. Prescription glasses offer little protection from particles entering from the side, and the lens is typically not designed to prevent flying impacts that can shatter glass or plastic. That’s why you should always wear ANSI- or OSHA-approved protective eyewear when using standard power tools. Safety glasses are cheap. We found safety glasses that meet ANSI Z87.1 standards starting at less than $2 each from Harbor Freight, so they don’t have to be expensive. A step up in eye protection is the clear, full-face shield that provides room to wear a breathing respirator.
For any type of electronic welding, such as MIG or TIG, do-it-yourselfers need to protect themselves against “photokeratitis” or welder’s flash, which can cause permanent eye damage. Lincoln-Electric, Hobart, and Miller Electric offer some of the best welding helmets on the market for all sorts of jobs.
Again, you don’t necessarily need a fancy helmet with flames painted on it, just one that is certified for your particular project. But don’t go cheap with welder’s helmets, because risking your eyesight is not worth the minimal savings you’ll net by selecting the most economical model. Although a good pair of welding safety glasses offering shade 3 or shade 5 lenses can be used for limited torch soldering, brazing, and cutting, these are not designed for electronic welding. Arc welding requires darker lenses that are found in welding helmets with certification.
Lincoln-Electric stopped by our offices and gave us a hands-on look at its latest safety gear for welders.
Aprons and More
We’re not talking about those silly barbecue aprons you wear on the weekends. The typical shop apron is made of leather, although there are safety PVC/polyester aprons for chemicals and cloth aprons for woodworking.
Aprons keep clothes clean for starters, but leather aprons also prevent sparks and flying bits of metal from burning holes through your duds. All aprons also help keep loose clothing away from the equipment you are using.
A step up from an apron, the full leather or flame-resistant cotton jacket is used when welding. There are a lot of styles, and Miller Electric and Lincoln-Electric just introduced some new lines that are a vast improvement over old-school welding gear.