The second in a two-part series on boatyard DIY protective equipment:
In this follow-up post, we will discuss respirators, ear protection, and boots for defense against harmful chemicals in the boatyard.
To find out about eye protection, Tyvek suits and gloves for painting, click on Boatyard Protective Gear Pt. 1
Boat repair and maintenance requires working with some pretty toxic products. Even folks who are only working to get their boats ready for the sunny season will likely be exposed to rugged chemical agents. Here's what you need to wear to help protect yourself from the harmful products used in boatyards.
Fiberglass and wood dust can be filtered with a standard 3M 2091 P100 Particulate Filter. However, if you are rolling bottom paint or nasty-but-effective two-part epoxy paints, as long as they aren't urethane-based products, you will want to use something like the 3M 6001 Organic Vapor Cartridge preferably with a prefilter.
Lots of folks (this writer included) use the 3M 7500 half mask because it's made of soft silicone and is comfortable to wear for long periods of time. PK Safety has an excellent mask and filters kit for boat painters using this half mask.
If you are spraying paint, you are going to want to make sure you have adequate ventilation. Outdoor work shouldn't pose a problem, but if you are inside doing cabinet or bilge work, make sure the area is properly ventilated by getting a fan to push fresh air into the space. Another option if you are going to be doing lots of spraying is getting some type of airline respirator system that will pump air to you from a clean area instead of trying to filter all of the harmful materials in the ambient air.
Another consideration for respirators is the full-face respirator option. We like the Moldex full-face respirator because of some clever design elements - incoming breath crosses the faceplate to reduce fogging - as well as the fact that the mucous membrane in your eyes is better protected with a full-face mask.
A note on respirator cartridge care. Cartridges that use carbon to absorb organic vapor will continue absorbing those vapors if you leave them in a toxic environment even if you aren't breathing through them. Always store your respirator away from your work site, and if possible, keep cartridges in an airtight (Zip Lock) bag for maximum life.
Earplugs are something not everyone thinks about when suiting up for boat work. However they can serve two useful purposes: First they protect your ears from noisy machinery such as grinders, drills and sanders. Secondly they keep material out of your ears. Everyone we talk to lately seems to love the Moldex Pura-Fit 6800 Foam Earplugs, and we can see why. They are really comfortable, and have the highest independently tested rating on the market.
Finally, lets talk about footwear. We notice lots of people using old tennis shoes for boat work. This is fine if you're never planning on wearing those shoes again. Unfortunately, boat work inevitably takes longer than you imagine it's going to. The guys we see in the yard often are wearing those old tennis shoes over and over, exposing their hands and feet (car, house, pets, family) to the toxic dust they carry away from the project with them. A simple and inexpensive solution are the Onguard PVC Boots.
The Onguard boots cost just over $16 and can be used for as long as it takes to get your boat project finished. They are easy to wash off, and they are surprisingly comfortable especially if you slip a cushion pad from the drug store in there. For another $2 you can upgrade to the Onguard PVC Steel Toe model. And once you are done with your work they will keep you protected and dry on a long crossing as well. No need for those expensive fancy boots!
We hope these tips clarify just what you should be wearing to protect yourself when doing boat repairs and maintenance. As always, if you have questions about any of the safety equipment we sell at PK Safety, or want to know how to protect yourself from chemicals in the boatyard, please call us at 800-829-9580.