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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Don't skimp on these 6 pieces of personal safety gear

It's easy to become complacent with shop safety, especially when the effects of letting your guard down are not always immediate. Fact is, working on cars and motorcycles can be dangerous. I was personally reminded of this truth a few weeks ago, when I put a coat of primer on my cleaned-up winter project XR250R frame.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/maintenance-and-tech/dont-skimp-on-these-6-pieces-of-personal-safety-g...
50 REPLIES 50
Rspcharger
Pit Crew

I've got them all and been using them all this past week doing some body repair. I'd like to add the clear full face shield in addition to the glasses for when you are grinding with a wire wheel. Those little wires will impale into your cheek when they fly off.
JonMiller
Intermediate Driver

If you do the majority of your work alone, keep your cell phone near-by. A set of pit-crew style knee pads are useful if you must work on the floor. Proper clothing and shoes are a must. While it is not personal safety gear, keep a fire extinguisher close to your work area.
Fatcat321
Intermediate Driver

I don't necessarily recommend auto-darkening welding helmets. It's the initial flash that triggers the screen to go dark, and in that millisecond, that flash can leave a spot on your retina. I know they are convenient as they allow you to see what you are going to weld and set up for it, but I find the regular grade 11 or 12 screen to be best, and to just use a nod of the head to bring the helmet down into position. I may be old school, but I have been welding since I was 12, 60 years, and have no eyesight problems from welding.
DUB6
Specialist

I finally got an auto-darkening helmet a couple of years ago when my old school helmet strap gave out, and the duct-tape fix I attempted failed and the helmet took a tumble off a hook and broke the glass screen.  I was kind of worried that the screen could darken quickly enough to avoid a flash, so I developed a technique of looking through the screen to get everything all lined up and then looking slightly away (just shifting my eyes, not turning my head) and/or closing my eyes just prior to triggering the welder.  By the time I looked back or opened my eyes, the helmet was dark and I felt safer.  Now, not sure if this works 100% as well as an always-dark glass, and it does take a bit of practice to get in the rhythm, but for me at least, it seems to be okay.

Tinkerah
Engineer

I was initially concerned for this exact reason. When I finally got a solar powered mask (I never liked the idea of the battery powered ones but I don't think they're made anymore) I saw the glass even with no power is never lighter than about a shade 4 which is a bunch better than getting flashed completely unprotected. As a home welder (meaning I strike and freeze rods dozens of times for each arc) I still have never seen a spot in my vision so I trust the lens truly is fast enough.
TG
Technician

the old technique of line everything up - then nod-flip the helmet down and spark has flashed me more than once if i didn't get the timing just right. if i was welding 8-40 i might be concerned about the millisecond, but for around the garage the auto-darkening helmet is a must
GrumpyOne
Intermediate Driver

As an "old school" trained welder I agree.

Most of my experience was in heavy steel shipbuilding where 1/2" was considered "sheet metal!"

Don't forget the steel toe shoes/boots as well!
DUB6
Specialist

1/2" was considered "sheet metal!"

The quote of the day 😁

 

I used to have a friend (R.I.P. John) who welded on huge boiler systems.  I always thought of him as a heavy-duty welding guy.  But now I'm thinking that he was a middleweight at best compared to @GrumpyOne!

coop
Intermediate Driver

I seem to recall my long ago friend from Finland said he welded 4"thick plates for icebreaker hulls.
ModelAfordV8
New Driver

A great article and thanks. About the auto-darkening helmets: I am sure Fatcat321 is an experienced and expert welder, but for us amateurs and weekend welders, use of a passive welding helmet is very difficult and IMHO less safe. I learned on acetylene torches, but I have used a MIG welder since the early 80s and the availability of the auto darkening helmets has allowed me a vastly improved MIG welding experience. I also wondered about the millisecond time for the screen to darken and the potential for eye damage on a cumulative or instantaneous basis. The Google information indicates that the damaging UV and IR radiation filters are always on in a properly operating auto darkening helmet; and thus, the delay to darken should affect only the other wavelengths. Both ANSI and OSHA allow for use of these helmets in the USA if they meet standards and I doubt if you can find one for sale from a responsible vendor that does not meet standards. I am sure this community will respond with any more information. Thanks again.
Tomboy
Pit Crew

Tongue in cheek comment - but does this article mean in the Red Line Rebuild episodes Davin is going to start wearing nitrile gloves or something protective - when he is disassembling or rebuilding an engine, transmission, brake system, fuel system. etc?
TomP
Intermediate Driver

I will trade the nitrile gloves for a fire extinguisher in the name of safety...
Studenorton
Instructor

Fire extinguishers in and around the car (and the shop) are worth several other articles. There are lots of variables in choosing them, and no one type covers all the possibilities.
MTPantera
Pit Crew

All those are good suggestions. Remember that if you are going to wear a respirator, do a simple test. Without the Organic/HEPA filter (recommended for fuels/solvents/welding/grinding) attached to the mask, place your hand over the inhalation ports, breath in lightly and the mask should stick to your face. If you feel/hear air coming in due to facial hair, shave and try again. If odd face shape, try another size or brand of mask until you get a seal. Then breath out lightly and the mask should puff up. This is the basic test. If you are doing a lot of this kind of work, get a professional fitting. and don't leave the mask in/near the solvents, store in a dry cool place out of the garage air in a neutral non binding position.
cyclonegreg
New Driver

One note on the safety glasses. I was on my back painting with the newer style safety glasses without decent side protection and paint dripped right past the gap into my eye. Lesson learned. I do use the newer ones for impact protection, as they are more comfortable.
AmazingWaldo
New Driver

Something to consider if you are a hobbyist like myself would be an outside air source when painting.
The cartridges on a respirator do go bad after a few weeks, and they are expensive. I have found that even though I do a lot of painting, whether spray bombing small parts or a full repaint, the time lag between uses of a respirator made it cost effective to purchase a small portable outside air source. It came with an air pump, 40 feet of food grade air hose, and a face mask. They can be purchased for around five hundred bucks, and I love breathing the clean forced air coming through the mask.
Kyle
Moderator

Interesting. I was not familiar with this type of system prior to your comment. I'll have to give it a look!

Studenorton
Instructor

Interesting history to them:  until recently, they were standard practice for working in confined industrial spaces.  It just came up the other day, as I was swapping "how bad was it" stories with my sister, a retired refinery maintainer.  They use 6-packs of compressed air to feed the tubes now, but her older buddies remembered using rotary hand pumps, and you didn't dare slow down!  Those were still in use in the 1970's. 

topside
Advanced Driver

Having learned how fragile eyesight is - from a non-car-related detached retina - glasses of any kind, and the safety-type where advisable - are a must.
Only other thing I'll add is the guys who emulate David Freiburger and work in fip-flops...you gotta be nuts around anything hot (sparks) or heavy or rolling...
richard2
Intermediate Driver

A couple of additions (one already mentioned in the comments): Heavy leather gloves are OK, but you can't really get to those miserable fasteners in an engine compartment with them on. So of course we ditch them and promptly skin (or bash) our knuckles loosening the bolt/nut!

I bought a cheap set of "mechanics gloves". They are mostly thin neoprene, which means they fit snug and do help with vibration. But mostly they have hard plastic protectors on the knuckles that really do prevent skinned knuckles. Just don't have a sniffle and wipe your nose!!!

Second, knee pads for when you must kneel (like brake jobs on the driveway). I just the "no cry" brand as they've lasted years now and have saved my knees on home reno projects as well as auto repairs. Trust me, when you get older your knees will love you for wearing these. The best ones (like no cry) can be worn for hours and hours without getting uncomfortable.
SJ
Technician

Forgot the most important safety item, your brain. Using it will help ensure your safety.
darkbuddha
Pit Crew

Came to say the same thing. You can forgo A LOT of safety gear with some high quality thought and processing.
coop
Intermediate Driver

If you've ever spent even a little time around a trauma/burn ICU, you'll nod your head approvingly at this good advice.
Tomcat59
Intermediate Driver

Regarding respirators - I agree with the comments below on fit testing. I need to add that it is unlikely that you will get a proper seal with facial hair in the sealing area. Having run chemical plants for nearly 20 years, I can tell you that a respirator is of little use without a proper seal.

I do like the choice of respirators in the photo. The OV indicates it is designed for organic vapors which is the most likely compound to be encountered in a shop. The P100 indicated 100% trapping of particulates/liquids to a 0.3 micron level. So this provides excellent protection from aerosols.

And a plus 1 on fire extinguishers.
FloridaMarty
Advanced Driver

All good advice for sure, but if you need someone to tell you when to use safety equipment, maybe you shouldn't be working on cars in the first place!

Kyle
Moderator

In this day and age of so many internet and TV "experts," there is a whole generation of folks learning from watching people do things the wrong way and thus think it's okay. Look no further than guys like David Freiburger who now preaches the importance of hearing protection while still regularly working in a shop wearing flip flops. If that is someones first exposure to DIY stuff they probably think that is acceptable, unfortunately.  

paradinek
New Driver

Another idea on the safety glasses. I just got a pair which go over my existing glasses and they have side protection.
bjburnout
Intermediate Driver

A good pair of comfortable safety shoes (steel toes) are a must. And for those with a hoist (lift) in their shop a soft bump hat is also highly recommended. And one more item that is always stickler for me and I see it all the time in home shops and celebrity TV - ditch the jewellery on your hands and the wrist watches. As an apprentice 55+ years ago I crossed terminals on an alternator with a watch band and it blew the watch away leaving a forever gash (scare) on my wrist.
happy (and safe) motoring everyone
bj
Rick2
Instructor

I managed to test how well a gold wedding band conducts electricity when I managed to touch a hot wire and ground at the same time. The ring got very hot, very fast!
Kyle
Moderator

I'm getting married this year and had to have a conversation with the missus that I really do love the gold band we picked out for me, but there will be probably be more time where it lives on my dresser than on my hand. Once I explained what it could do she understood. 

 

CoreyG
Intermediate Driver

I think most of us these days who actually do anything with our hands wear Silicon rings about 80-90% of the time. Even if I am running errands I wear my silicon band just because you never know when you will need to pop the hood for something.
61Rampy
Instructor

I had to have the same conversation with my wife back in 1992. Since I was her mechanic (that's how we met), she knew the perils and she agreed with no ring when working on cars.
Tinkerah
Engineer

Did a similar with a watch band too close to a battery years ago. Burned a beautiful image of the band's links onto my wrist. Eventually healed.
61Rampy
Instructor

I did exactly the same thing! Weird thing was that it took about 30 seconds for the band (a Twist-o-flex) to heat up enough for me to feel it. I'm thinking it was because of the resistance of all those little individual links. My wrist finally healed up, too.
Tim
Technician

Definitely don't go less than the 7mil gloves. I bought 5 mil because they seemed like they were thick, but as soon as I tried the first pair on, I knew I mean to get thicker gloves. 5 mil doesn't quite cut it for auto work where hands tend to bang and scrape against various parts and edges.
bblhed
Instructor

Davin from Red Line Rebuild might want to look at that glove advice. I recall seeing Ed China talk about having hydrocarbons in his blood from not wearing gloves and immediately thinking of Davin.

Glove that man up, we want to keep him around for a while longer.
GRP_Photo
Instructor

Put together a comprehensive first aid kit.
61Rampy
Instructor

You mean more than just a paper towel and duct/electrical/Scotch tape?
JBaguley
Intermediate Driver

Great list, thanks for sharing. A couple related items:

- Fire Extinguishers; not exactly a PPE (personal protective equipment) item, but having one handy for any task and in particular those involving fuel systems can prove to be the difference between an inconvenience and a disaster.
- Hearing Protection; keep those ear plugs handy if you drive a convertible or drive with windows down. Freeways and other roads with high traffic loads can be deafening. I keep a couple sets of ear plugs in each of the little British roadsters.

Happy New Year 2022 to all.
Tinkerah
Engineer

As part of my machinist's apprenticeship program in 1987 I was shown a slide show called "The Convincer". A lengthy series of photos of injuries taken in hospital emergency rooms. I'll tell ya NOBODY took safety more seriously than me after that. They ended up banning "The Convincer" from the safety program because it was too "upsetting" but to this very day I'm glad I saw it.
TG
Technician

fire extinguisher and a spray bottle of water
eighthtry
Advanced Driver

Solvents and oils are known brain cancer problems as well. I have had two buddies go that way.
I like fire extinguishers. No question that should be on the list.
MYTFAST
Intermediate Driver

Can't believe more people didn't say a phone. My in-home phone system has 5 handsets on remote charging stands so grabbing one to have with me when working on the car is always important! I also like cargo style pants & work shirts with large flap pockets that can hold a portable phone, which is sturdier & much easier to use than a cell. You never know if you get trapped or have a medical emergency & need to get help.
drjim
Advanced Driver

Excellent advice, Kyle. I had a friend who was grinding down the forging line on a connecting rod, and had a small, sharp sliver of steel nail him in the eye. Had to go to an eye Doctor to get it removed when he noticed a "rust spot" developing on the white of his eye.

Good comments about respirators and beards, too. Since I don't do any things requiring one in my unheated garage, I've gone to a "winter beard" and a "summer beard".
DrOverboost
Intermediate Driver

I believe auto-darkening helmets are safe. And, as a physician, I have read about neck injuries from years of flipping your welding helmet. Since we are on the topic of safe welding and the obvious need for flame retardant clothing has been mentioned, I’ll suggest welding blankets. I prefer Kevlar but anything which protects my baby (racecar) while welding is essential safety equipment. And if you're looking up while welding, use earplugs!! Sizzling wax and melted ear drums are another risk.
Kyle
Moderator

Good points! I am a pretty amateur hobby welder so anything fixtured is at a convenient working height but overhead welding (like on a lift) has it's own set of unique hazards I haven't thought about for awhile.

tuttle
New Driver

Fire suppression for those Oh!!$%# moments
DavidHolzman
Advanced Driver

Terrific article! Thanks Kyle Smith!
Gman1954
Pit Crew

Kyle = I wear Glasses & Found these Goggles on Amazon to COVER mine: " DEWALT DPG82-11/DPG82-11CTR Concealer Clear Anti-Fog Dual Mold Safety Goggle " Reasonably priced & very comfortable, they completely cover the sides of your eyes as opposed to the simple safety glasses. I do a lot of grinding & sawing and these work really well.
regards from,
Gman1954