What PPE should I use when working at home?

Q:

What kind of PPE should I wear when I'm doing work around the house?

A:

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is your last line of defense against hazards. They're the protective articles you wear on your person (like safety glasses and work gloves) to protect against risks and dangers that haven't been adequately controlled by some other method.

You need it at work. But what about when you're doing work around the house?

Here's the straight answer: the PPE used at work for a specific job or task is exactly what you should be using for a similar job and task at home, regardless of the work being done.

Here's why.

The use of any PPE (on or off the job) requires at least these things:

  1. Hazard identification of the task(s) of the job, including an analysis of the risks of the task in respect to potential personal injury. That means that an identified hazard at work needs to be ranked, rated, or determined to be a hazard that can be controlled by using PPE, or only with the use of PPE.
  2. That the decision to use PPE as a hazard control method has been made in order to:
    1. Protect the worker from the hazards
    2. Mitigate/control the risks associated with the work to an acceptable level
    3. Comply with all company and external policy, procedure, and regulations
    4. Is the only remaining option for you or a worker
  3. That the selected PPE meets appropriate regulations and standards, and that the worker knows how to use and maintain it properly

Let's say a landscaper is using a gas or electric powered string trimmer to cut the grass. They should be wearing:

  • Foot protection (in this case, I recommend steel toed safety boots that lace up and protect the foot and ankle)
  • Coveralls (with jeans underneath for additional impact protection)
  • Gloves (preferably anti-vibration, but with a palm/fingers thin enough to allow operation of the trimmer's smaller switches and controls)
  • Dust mask
  • Eye protection and a full face shield
  • Hearing protection
  • Hard hat
  • Reflective/safety vest

Since you face the same risks and hazards as the landscaper, the same applies when you're using that same equipment at home.

Now, all that may sound like overkill for running a lawn trimmer around the edges of your house, but these trimmers are hazardous tools. Not only can you be cut by the rotating string head, but that head and string throws and propels debris, bits of the cutting string, and rocks and gravel at significantly high speeds.

All that dust and debris gets into the air and can get into your nose, eyes, mouth, and lungs. So, you need to protect against that.

And the noise is a given. The second you turn them on, you can tell they're loud enough to cause hearing damage after prolonged exposure. In my case, that prolonged exposure would last almost three hours (oh the joys of acreage living!).

So yes, even for something as routine and ordinary as running your hedge trimmer, you need to have the right PPE, even if you're not at work and on the clock.

(Learn more in Life Hacks: 3 Ways to Boost Summer Safety At Home.)

It doesn't make a difference whether you're at work or at home - a hazard is a hazard. Whether it's using a chainsaw, changing the oil or tires of a car, using circular saws, power washers, lawnmowers, or garden tractors, the work stays the same and the hazards don't change even if the location does.

Safety legislation might not extend to you at your house, but sensible safety practices do. Use PPE, use proper safe work procedures, and protect yourself and your family.

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Written by Henry Skjerven
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Mr. Skjerven has consulted professionally for over 27 years, with extensive Canadian experience, literally from coast to coast but with a home base in Western Canada. His experience ranges from marketing, adult education, and heavy transportation (rail) to municipal public works, fleet and transportation, oil and gas construction in the tar sands, emergency response (Fire and Ambulance), Public Works, Parks and Recreation, Security, as well as human resources and software systems, including enterprise style projects.

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