Find out how to put safety first when working on home improvement projects that could cause damage to your eyes, ears, or lungs, such as mowing or woodworking. Learn about technology advances that have made goggles and respirators more comfortable than ever.
LESLIE: Well, in the rush to get your do-it-yourself projects started, don’t sacrifice safety . Protection for your eyes, ears and even your lungs is super-important.
TOM: Absolutely. And the good news is there are many new ways to play it safe so you don’t have to be uncomfortable or even out of style. Here to tell us more is Kevin O’Connor , the host of TV’s This Old House .
KEVIN: Hi, guys.
TOM: This is something a lot of weekend warriors just don’t pay enough attention to. But it really is the best way to prevent so many accidents.
KEVIN: It is. And I think people don’t often pay attention to it because they think, “Oh, I’m just going to go mow the lawn for 20 minutes or so.” What most folks don’t realize is that you actually do this stuff quite a lot and you do it time and time and time again. So if you’re going to expose yourself to these repeated tasks, you should protect yourself.
TOM: So let’s start by talking about eye protection . There’s a lot of risks out there to our eyes and you just mentioned mowing the lawn. I mean just even thinking about that, those blades are flying very quickly. The pebbles are flying, the dust is flying. Very easy to get something in your eye and your eye is pretty soft.
KEVIN: I learned this lesson. You know how when you trim along the sidewalk and you take your string trimmer and you turn it sideways?
KEVIN: Man, that thing is just a fan blowing stones and stuff right up at you. And I finally gave up.
You really want to protect your eyes and the good news is there’s lots of different ways you can do it. You can get the full-on goggles that give you sort of the all-around protection. But there’s also stylish-looking eye protection that you could put on out there, which is not bad.
Roger, our landscaper, his guys, they love the sunglasses – the safety sunglasses – you know?
KEVIN: They think they look cool – they do – but they’re also protecting from UV and these types of things. And you’ve even got bifocal safety glasses out there right now. So there’s really something for everybody. No more excuses not to put something over your eyes.
LESLIE: And I think it’s important not to just say, “Oh, I’m wearing eyeglasses, so these will do the trick, or my regular sunglasses.” Because those – if anything goes flying towards your face, they don’t handle the impact the same way a true safety glass or goggle would. So don’t just wear your normal sunglasses, don’t just wear your eyeglasses. Because should you get hit in the eye, you could have a worse injury, correct?
KEVIN: I think that’s the point. You could have a worse injury. That stone could turn into 50 pieces of shattered glass if it breaks your traditional eyeglass. So safety glasses are the way to go.
TOM: Now, let’s talk about ear protection . That’s another thing that we don’t think of very frequently. But something like mowing the grass or using a blower, for example, while you’re sort of leaf-blowing the leaves off of your lawn, that’s some pretty loud, pretty intense noise that could actually seriously damage your hearing.
KEVIN: Yeah. And I think this is the spot where it really goes to that point that I made about sort of the cumulative effect, right? The fact that, “Oh, I’m just going to go out there for 10 minutes and blow the leaves. What’s the big deal?” Well, if you do it for 10 minutes and you do it 2 times a week all summer long, you’re talking about cumulative noise exposure. And in fact, the hearing damage that people get is typically over long periods of time, the cumulative damage that happens.
So, protect those ears. There are all different ratings for decibel levels. But know that there’s lots of different ways that you can actually protect your ears. You can have those disposable ear plugs that fit into your ears. They’re cheap. You can buy a big jar of them. They also have the same ones that come on lanyards so they hang around your neck; they’re always where you want them. And for optimal protection, you want to use something that they call “over the ear.” So these are the big earmuffs.
And I just got a cool pair that’s a radio and you can actually plug your iPod into it. So now, nobody bothers me.
TOM: And you can listen to The Money Pit.
KEVIN: That’s all I do.
LESLIE: Now, this is – something that I think a lot of people skip is lung protection . Certain respirators or even just dust masks, they can be cumbersome, your face gets all sweaty. So how do you make it more appealing to wear one?
KEVIN: Well, I’m guilty of this. I can remember all of the woodworking projects that I did where I was making sawdust and said, “Ah, it’s just sawdust. What’s the big deal?” But you’re actually sucking in all of that sawdust, you’re sucking in fumes, you’re sucking in VOCs .
LESLIE: Yeah, blow your nose after this project and that’s evidence of everything you’ve been breathing in.
KEVIN: Right? Absolutely. So if you’re ever working around the dust or the fumes, it’s important that you actually wear a face mask. And you want to wear the right one. There are different ratings on this face mask and you want to choose the one that’s rated for your project.
So, there might be one rating that’s appropriate for when you’re installing fiberglass insulation. But then there’s another one when you’re around fumes or VOCs. So all of the information you need is on the dust-mask package. Pick the right one and just make sure you use it.
LESLIE: And I think it’s important – if you haven’t been down this aisle lately in the home center, there’s been a lot of innovations in the design to these respirators or masks that make them better fitting. They have vents built into them so that you don’t get that over-fogging of your safety goggles. I think it’s important to revisit this if this has been a reason why you’ve been shying away.
KEVIN: There’s a lot of choices out there that are going to do the job for you.
TOM: And so important to take advantage of that and stay safe so that you can continue onto your next DIY project.
Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit and helping keep us all safe.
KEVIN: Pleasure to be here, guys.
LESLIE: Catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by The Home Depot. More saving, more doing.