The right protective gear is like a small health insurance policy.
There’s nothing hard about wearing safety goggles or earplugs or a respirator when they are needed. The cost for such protective gear can be very small — for less than ten dollars, you can buy the most basic of safety glasses, earplugs, and a simple disposable mask. Consider such purchases as the equivalent of a small health insurance policy, money well spent.
If you are serious about the work you do in your workshop, and you have invested – or are about to invest – in an assortment of quality power tools and other shop equipment, it makes good sense to buy quality protective equipment as well.
Full-Face Shield. A full-face shield costs a bit more than safety goggles or glasses, but will give you maximum range of vision with essentially no blind spots. A shield is perfect for running a table saw or other stationary equipment where you work upright, feeding stock into a machine.
Hearing Protectors. If you use power tools, wear some sort of hearing protector. I understand the rationale that lots of people employ to avoid wearing one: “If the noise doesn’t hurt, it really couldn’t be very harmful, could it?” The answer is yes, it can and probably will cause hearing loss over time. Don’t take the chance.
If you have an especially loud tool (a direct-drive table saw or a shaper, for example), consider buying protectors that resemble earmuffs. For most home workshops, plugs or foam pads mounted on a headband will do.
Lung Protection. For only a few cents, you can purchase a disposable fabric mask with elastic straps that hold it in place over your nose and mouth. For an occasional need, such masks are quite adequate, but if you frequently sand, strip, scrape, or paint, a more sophisticated variation of the same device would be in order.
Called respirators, they filter fumes and dust. Most have twin cartridges built into the chin-piece of the mask. The filters in the respirator will need to be changed occasionally, both because they get dirty (accumulating particulate matter over time, for example) and because different filters serve different needs.
Paper filters are best for dusty applications or when spray painting. Charcoal cartridges are suitable for working with chemicals or other tasks that involve fumes. When the paper becomes clogged (and breathing more difficult) or when you begin to smell the vapors, change the filters.