Although a look at personal protective equipment (PPE) (Fig 1) is not the most glamorous subject, it can help increase your productivity and long-term earnings in the industry. How, you may ask? PPE helps keep you healthy, active and on the job so you can consistently earn a living. It may also even protect your loved ones from harm caused by the contaminants that you carry home.
So what are some of the PPE that should be considered? Probably the first ones that come to mind are the most obvious — eye protection and respirators. Most technicians put on glasses when using a grinder (at least most of the time), but what about when mixing paint, or when your partner in the next stall is using a grinder, or welding? How about when you are under a vehicle, or working on air-conditioning? We should begin to see that a good argument can be made for eye protection to be worn at all times in the work area. And what about respirators? Even to this day I see technicians in paint booths without a respirator of any kind, or sanding without a particle mask. And the answer is yes, even though you are spraying "waterborne" paint, a respirator is needed.
Take it from an old technician who started in this profession in 1965: You need to protect yourself at all times. Even that short trip into the booth for only a minute or two without PPE can add up over the years. And it's not only the obvious needs or hazards such as we have been talking about. Ask some older techs if they have ringing in their ears (tinnitus); I am sure that most of them will either say yes, or they will admit to some hearing loss. If you only start thinking about protecting yourself years after you have started working, by then the damage may have already started.
For your safety and wellbeing, then, we will run through details of most of the PPEs such as eye protection, respirators, gloves, hearing protection, paint suits, boots, and work uniforms. We may omit some such as eye protection when using UV cured paint, or alkaline protective clothing when replacing a cracked lithium ion battery. While we will plan to cover most of the common everyday PPEs that will be encountered in the collision repair industry, bear in mind that each time you learn a new technique or a new product is introduced into the workplace, the proper personal protective equipment for that situation should be used.