Wearing the appropriate protective gear is very important when entering the crawl space. It doesnt matter whether youre a homeowner who crawls into the crawl space once a year, or an inspector who does so, on a daily basis. Continuous exposure to airborne contaminants and other dangers in crawl spaces over time, can cause real harm to you if youre not protected. Crawl spaces, especially in older homes, can be a real danger to your health. Note that some of these homes have been treated for years with dangerous pesticides that have now been banned by most governments. Repeated exposure to dust that has been contaminated with pesticides such as Chlordane, Dursban etc. (both of which have been banned), can increase your risk of getting cancer. As if thats not enough, older homes have been exposed to several years of contaminants such as decomposed animal carcasses, rodent urine and feces and mold spores, all of which can affect your health negatively.
And if you thought that crawl spaces in newer homes are safer, then youre dead wrong. Even those with polyethylene vapor barriers on their floors still have some risks. For instance, in cases where an insulation contractor didnt vacuum loose glass fibers from the floor after installation, they can lay there forever, just waiting to become airborne. And as you may already know, breathing fiberglass particles into your lungs is not good for your health.
That said, you need to protect yourself when entering your crawl space by wearing the right protective gear. Here are some safety gear that are a must-have when entering your crawl:
Dont rely on a paper dust mask for your protection when entering the crawl space; wear a respirator instead. Choose a respirator that has cartridges rated for both fine particles and organic chemicals. More importantly, it should be comfortable to wear, and provide you with the proper level of protection. Note that it will take some time for you to get used to wearing a respirator, but once youve done so, you wont want to enter the crawl without it.
If possible, wear a hard hat to protect your head from falling objects such as nails. However, if the crawl space has limited space, you should consider using a soft padded hat.
Full coverage eye protection (goggles) is required for dusty crawl spaces. However, safety glasses are recommended for low-dust work areas, as they are less likely to fog up in humid crawl spaces.
Gloves protect your hands, especially when youre crawling. For maximum protection, wear thick welders gloves in dry work areas, and heavy rubber padded gloves for wet areas.
Have a battery-operated flashlight to help you see things clearly in the crawl space. It may be a good idea to have another spare flashlight to avoid being trapped in the dark, in case the first one fails.
Wear thick knee pads to protect your legs and knees from damp surfaces.
Wear a tyvek suit, a jumpsuit, or padded clothing before entering the crawl.
Dont forget to carry a cell phone, or a two-way radio to call for help in case of an emergency.
Have An Accomplice
Do not enter the crawl alone have at least one person at the entry, and be sure to maintain contact.
Effective crawl space insulation starts with wearing the right protective gear. If you plan to insulate your crawl space soon, but still dont have the above safety gear, get them as soon as possible, and protect your health and life.