219 – Safety Gear Upgrades

Added on May 1, 2014

There aren’t usually a lot of new innovations in the world of woodworking safety gear but there are occasional improvements that can really make a practical difference in the shop. Let’s take a look at a few such improvements in eye, lung, and hearing protection.

The Eyes Have It

Ever since I started woodworking I have been using fairly standard protective lenses. While they get the job done, using them in conjunction with ear muffs and a respirator can be a little less than comfortable. Thankfully, there are many other options on the market including 3M SecureFit Protective Eyewear. Instead the arms being made from a thick plastic material, they are thin and flexible. The end result is a much more comfortable fit for long periods of use.

protective-eyewearSince standard protective lenses can still allow fine debris to get to the eye by going around the lens, some folks might be interested in the 3m Virtua lenses that feature a foam gasket. Or for even more protection, consider 3M Safety Goggles.

Another option brought to my attention by friend of the show Andrew are the FULLPRO Protective lenses. Instead of resting on your ears, the “arms” are actually velcro strips that attach to your favorite set of ear muffs. Talk about comfortable!

Do You Smell That?

3m-6500For years, I have recommended the 3M 7500 Series respirator due to it’s comfortable design and down-firing exhaust. The 6500 Series retains those same attributes but has a nifty extra feature: a quick-release latch. While this isn’t a ground-breaking innovation, it does make it easier to release the respirator for a quick conversation or a sip of coffee.

Bluetooth for the Win!

I love to listen to music, podcasts, and audiobooks while I’m working. In the ideal world, I’d be able to do this without the hazard and inconvenience of cords. Bluetooth is the answer! Unfortunately, protective ear muffs with bluetooth and speakers run into the hundreds of dollars. I think we can do better.

bluetooth-headsetI picked up a set of Howard Leight Stereo Ear Muffs, a Bluetooth Adapter, and a small male to male adapter for a homemade Bluetooth headset solution. Now I can protect my hearing while enjoying a nice brain-enriching book from Audible. No wires, no painful earbuds, and the only additional battery is the rechargable one in the bluetooth adapter. This new setup is fantastic and I highly recommend it!

For many folks, shop safety must be balanced with comfort and convenience. So these little creature comfort upgrades help reinforce shop safety by making it that much more likely they’ll be used in the first place. So if you aren’t happy with a particular piece of personal protective equipment, look around. There just might be something better just waiting for you!

A Note About Safety Day

As mentioned in the video, I am passing the Safety Day baton to my friends over at Modern Woodworker’s Association. To be honest, I’ve been growing a little bored of the event. I think the guys at MWA can certainly breathe some new life into the event and get other folks in the community excited about participating. So keep an eye on their site for updates concerning current and future Safety Day events.

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Written by Marc Spagnuolo

Marc is the host of The Wood Whisperer and author of Hybrid Woodworking.