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Fibreglass Repair Safety
Before we start getting excited about doing our fibreglass repair it is important that we take some safety precautions to help guard ourselves against possible fibreglass irritation.
Just like panel beating, fibreglass work has its problems as well and dust would be the main factor to guard against as stated earlier.
So it is important to take safety seriously when we are considering doing this kind of work, in fact any kind of work.
We need to be safe!!, and it is better being safe than sorry! and I will tell you why from personal experience at the end of this page.
So lets get started, most of these safety items, if not all can be obtained from your local hardware store e.g Bunnings, Mitre 10, Home Hardware or paint places that look after the paint trades e.g, Paint Place, Inspirations Paint etc here in Australia.
I suppose apart from our safety gear for fibreglass repair that we should wear, one important issue that usually gets overlooked is our power supply.
Most homes, sheds and businesses here in Australia should have installed in the power box, Safety cutout/throwout switches or earth leakage switches installed as these help give you protection from electrocution in case you accidentally cut through a power lead or a faulty tool etc.
If you do not have safety cutouts installed you can buy a portable safety switch or RCD unit (Residual Current Device) which is one of the same, a surge protector is different.
Is there a difference between a surge protector and a safety switch?
Surge protectors are different to safety switches. Surge protectors help protect sensitive electronic equipment and safety switches help protect people – ergon energy QLD Australia.
Safety switches are not very expensive to buy, most hardware shops that sell power leads ect. should sell them and prices can range from $30.00 upward depending on brand, 1,2 or 4 outlets etc.
The ones I use (shown) are a 4 outlet box and a single safety switch with a 1.6 mt lead so I can plug a ordinary power board into it, depending on where I am and the type of work involved.
Here are some links below on Safety Switches.
Goggles and/or Safety Glasses:
These are a must! but not many of us ever wear them, if you ever bought a sander or grinder from the hardware store, the packaging will most likely tell you to wear them along with masks etc.
The most likely cause of why we do not wear them is either a lack of education, laziness or the safety glasses we have keep falling off as we are usually looking down a lot or are in awkward situations and they become a nuisance so we tend to keep them off.
Goggles on the other hand give more protection against dust/mist and will tend to fit the face a lot better and not fall off and give your eyes more “breathing space”.
When buying goggles make sure that you ask for anti fog goggles that will not fog up when being used with masks.
If you decide to buy safety glasses instead, buy ones that fit the face close and/or ones that have wraparound corners. Make sure goggles and/or safety glasses are clear and not tinted.
These are a must! Most people that are going to be doing fibreglass repair will already know that you need to use these to help protect yourself from dust inhalation.
If you are only doing a small fibreglass repair (example. car spoiler, canoe, outboard cowling etc.) then a small handy pack should do the job, but if say the repair is quite large like maybe a stern replacement, bearers, or floors in a fiberglass boat etc. then it’s cheaper buying a box of them.
Look for a P1 CLASS mask as these are more suited for fiberous dust than a plain paper dust mask.
A half mask is far better protection if you intend to do your own spray painting as well, as these masks contain a gas (fume) filter, particle and pre filters to help stop the nasties from getting inhaled like the fumes that come off 2 pack paints, epoxies and resins specially when opening, mixing and spraying.
Because the filters are separate and you can use the particle filter for grinding or the gas filter for spray painting, they are quite long lasting and can be bought singly or in bulk.
When it comes to clothes will depend on what we are attempting to repair and how much grinding is involved. Fibreglass repair has a drawback and that is dust and as stated previously can be an itchy experience and one to avoid if possible or minimize.
Basically the best clothes to wear when repairing fibreglass are old jeans and a long sleeve shirt, shoes, socks and along with safety glasses/goggles and a mask will give you pretty good protection against irritating dust.
You may say ” Hey I’m only gunna repair my cracked car spoiler, do I really
have to wear all this stuff? “, well it does not really worry me what you wear, after all you can wear your jocks or bikini if you want to but you will likely find it prickly under the bed sheets at night hehe, but seriously though, dress accordingly and at least wear your googles and mask as your eyes are most important as small fragments of fibreglass can easily fly off and hit your eye.
These disposable overalls are great, specially when you have a lot of grinding or spray painting to do, if you have a job/repair to do and it involves getting into a confined space or area then these are good to have on hand.
They are all one piece and some have a hood to cover your head so grinding dust will not get down the back of your shirt or waist line. When your finished you can put them in a gentle wash (with out other clothes) and hang them out to dry to be used again.
They are not expensive when you consider what they can save you in discomfort. There is a cheaper one also available, does the same and is single use but is more prone to tearing and are usually not washable and maybe not as soft to work in.
Disposable gloves are were something I never wore until I got tired of the mess one’s fingers and hand can get into when using resin and csm (chopped strand mat), specially by brush or roller in tight situations.
Anybody that has done a lot of fibreglass work will at some point experience the pain and throbbing one gets when catalyst works itself down into the wick of your fingernail or having small cuts on your hands get very exciting when you clean up with acetone or with most hand cleaners that dissolve resins.
The beauty about using disposable gloves is that, not only helps prevents the above but when finished are easy to take off and takes the mess with it, saving you time.
When doing a big repair it is good to change your gloves as resin/mat build up can get annoying plus some hands can sweat so you need to dry before putting on another pair.
Remember though, acetone will generally break down the latex gloves, so when cleaning your brushes and/or rollers try to keep them from getting too wet with your cleaning fluid.
Some people can have a reaction with gloves that contain Latex and so there is a non-latex glove available.
You can pick up disposable gloves from most shops that sell food or hardware, the non-latex ones may be a little harder to obtain but check the store or chemist outlet.
I think that takes care of our PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) now I will tell you why it is important to wear our safety glasses or goggles before we start grinding.
Safety Lesson: #1
In my case I had filled an area on top of a transom edge with filler and a layer of filler doubled over itself on a edge, usually one gets a spatula and take off the excess but the phone rang, by the time I came back it had set hard, so I decided to take it off with the grinder (as it was handy), not thinking (rushing) there was a small air pocket formed by the filler rolling over itself, it would only take a few seconds with the grinder so I decided not to put my goggles on.
The result being when the grinding disc hit the filler/air pocket a thin section of filler broke off and flew off the outer edge of the disc, I heard it hit the nearby stern light and it rebounded off that straight into my right eye.
Now, I know some of you are thinking “well instead of the grinder, could have used a sanding block” well I had to find it and was some distance away, “well you should use the safety guard that comes with the machine” ahhhh that thing! one will find that to be one of the most annoying things to have on a grinder when doing fibreglass repair work as they are usually designed for steel work with a grinding/cut off wheel, even if it was on there is no guarantee that it would have changed the outcome.
The closest thing for a guarantee would have been to wear my goggles or safety glasses, that way I would have not been out of work for the next 2 weeks.
So, regardless of how simple your fibreglass repair is make sure that you take care of your eyes and wear proper PPE where required. In the next section we will cover the tools for doing a basic fibreglass canoe repair.