Safety equipment and safe work practices
Making things can be dangerous, that’s why you need to always consider appropriate Health & Safety principles. The Health & Safety laws varies from country to country, but the minimum requirements are to wear the proper personal safety equipment and to use safe work practices. This includes not working with potentially dangerous equipment alone, to not work on machines unless you are properly trained, and to not work while you are tired, hungry, or ill. Long hair must be tied up (see the photo of me below), and loose clothing items (scarves, hoodies, strings) must be removed or secured.
For you personal safety equipment, the absolute minimum you will need is listed below. However, you may need additional safety equipment depending on what you want to make. It is your responsibility to have to proper safety equipment; please note the ScienceEnvy.com legal disclaimer.
- Safety glasses. If you wear prescription glasses, you will need safety glasses that fit on top of your regular glasses, or you need prescription safety glasses (the photo below of me shows one of my several pairs of prescription safety glasses). Note that your regular prescription glasses do not provide sufficient protection. For certain activities you might need a face shield that protects more than the safety glasses.
- Gloves: work gloves to handle material and items with sharp edges, and thinner rubber or plastic gloves for painting and handling liquids such as solvents and oils.
- Ear protection (to use while working with power tools or other equipment that may create loud noises).
- Closed-toe or steel-toe shoes.
- Respiratory protection (to use while sanding, painting, and other activities that generates dust or fumes that can be dangerous to inhale).
Any hardware store or tool store will sell safety equipment. Large stores like Walmart and Target may also sell safety equipment. Prices can vary dramatically, so if you are on a budget you might want to look around before you buy.
If you join a local Maker Space or similar, they will teach you more about work safety and the safety requirements for their particular equipment.
Always wear your safety glasses!
Your most important piece of safety equipment is your safety glasses! Our eyes are very delicate and can be easily injured. While safety glasses are obviously needed while working with power tools, other tasks have less obvious risks. Even simple tasks like removing support material from a 3D printed model can cause sharp plastic pieces come flying at high speed. I have had pieces of support material fly across the room and hit another person (but luckily not in their eye!). I have lost count have many times pieces of support material has bounced of my glasses.
Trimming wires or cutting legs of electrical components while building electronic devices is another common activity that can generate high speed projectiles shooting across the room. Because of this – make sure people next to you also wear safety glasses!
Be careful with your remaining eye!
Are safety glasses expensive?
No, they don’t have to be. While there are certainly expensive safety glasses, I have seen safety glasses for as little as US$ 2 per pair. Look around in different stores if you are on a tight budget. If you can afford it, buy an extra pair for your friends so they can join you while you make stuff!
It’s cool to wear safety glasses!
If you don’t regularly wear glasses, it can feel really awkward or weird to wear safety glasses. They stick out from your face and and can be really uncomfortable. If you feel awkward wearing safety glasses, try to think of them as your superhero glasses! They allows you to shape metal with your hands, and to make things that have never existed before! Perhaps you can think of them as giving you x-ray vision. And if you can afford buying an extra set for your buddy, you can be superheros together! It’s cool to wear safety glasses, and really stupid not to!
Always tie up long hair when working with machines!
If you have long hair, just must tie it up when you work with machines. This is not a joke. Your hair is incredibly strong, and if your hair get caught in a drill press, milling machine, lathe, or similar, it will pull you in a shred you to pieces. If nobody is there to rescue you, you will bleed to death. This has happened multiple times (you can google it, but be prepared for some grisly content). That is certainly not the way I want to die.
I always keep my hair in a pony tail, but that is not enough when you work with machines if your hair is as long as mine (it might be OK if your hair is short enough). Long hair needs to be tied up in a bun, or similar, so there is no chance it can get caught in the machine.
Just because it is shown in a photo – it doesn’t mean it is correct!!!
There may be photos here on ScienceEnvy.com that show people performing activities without proper safety equipment, or without following proper Health & Safety procedures. While I try to always work in a safe way, we all make mistakes (for example, sometimes I forget to change from my regular prescription glasses to my safety glasses, which isn’t OK, but it happens). There may also be someone else in the photo that chose to not use safety equipment. While I can ask them to do it, I can’t make them do it. However, if you think something we do or recommend is unsafe, let us know immediately! (More information below).