Breaking my Bad Safety Habits

Published on: 02:48AM May 15, 2019

I think I've finally developed discipline about ear and eye protection at work. For years I was lax about putting on a face shield and ear protection when I had to grind metal. I had the personal protection equipment at my disposal: I was generally just in too big of a hurry to go find the gear and put it on for the few minutes that I needed it.

I've noticed customers often have the same attitude when I'm working on equipment in their shop. They stand at a bench grinder, sparks flying, with their head turned and eyes squinted, or use a pneumatic air grinder without ear protection. That's their choice, but no longer mine. After several trips over the years to the eye doctor to have metal splinters removed from my eyes, and the ongoing sound of crickets singing in my ears due to tinnitus, I'm now pretty religious about eye and hearing protection. I know that's like closing the barn door after the horse has got out, but I guess late is better than never.

After much experimentation, I've settled on using a clear face shield when grinding, even though my prescription safety glasses have side shields (required by the dealership's insurance company.) That's probably overkill, but I'm tired of eye doctors sticking things in my eye to dig out metal filings. For hearing protection, I prefer ear muffs, They're hot in the summer, but I find them more effective than ear plugs. 

A secondary advantage to wearing ear muffs is self protection. I've learned if I'm wearing ear plugs, other mechanics don't notice them and will come up behind me and start talking, and scare the bejeebers out of me because I didn't hear them approach. When I wear ear muffs, they see the muffs and know I might not hear their approach, so they step into my peripheral vision to let me know they're behind me. 

Except one particular coworker, who used to take devilish delight in sneaking up behind me whenever he saw me wearing ear muffs. At least he used to, until the time he startled me and I flung my hand out in surprise and smacked him in the chin with the 32-ounce ball peen hammer I was holding.