One Weird But Really Effective Way to Store Safety Equipment

The other day I was talking to a friend who does construction for a living. He was having problems with his eyesight. He told me that five times over his career, splinters of wood and metal have shot off his equipment and into his eye. The splinters hit his left eye each time. On his fourth trip to the doctor, she said she would not see him anymore unless he wore safety goggles. On his fifth eye injury, he found a new doctor. What is the best way to store safety equipment? In clean, closed, transparent plastic bins stored at eye-level so that nothing gets on top of the gear, the gear doesn’t get dirty, it’s easy to find.

UPDATE: When I wrote this article there were several good cubicle products that fit in cabinets. These are no longer available so I’m presenting a new idea to store safety equipment. Use the Akro-Mils TiltView transparent storage drawers. This idea is superior to the cubby method. See UPDATE below! What is the best way to store safety equipment? Keep personal protection equipment clean and dry. Prevent equipment from getting piled up (and hard to find). Insert storage cubes in a cabinet to create safe spaces for your safety equipment.

Dewalt DPG82 safety eye goggles
DeWalt DPG82 safety eye goggles

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is Annoying, Until You Consider the Alternative

3 bin PPE storage Weird effective way to store safety equipment
Cheap plastic goggles are too warm. They get fogged up, and they fall off my face. When I leave them out in the garage, my old goggles get dusty and buggy. So when I need to wear eye protection, these goggles couldn’t be less appealing. I don’t want their dusty crud on my face. But what is the alternative? My friend’s failing eyesight reminded me how much I like the ability to see. Is a little annoyance really such a big price to pay for keeping my eyesight?

Why is it so hard to make safety equipment appealing? Good goggles fit well and aren’t annoying to wear. It’s time to upgrade the cheap plastic goggles to a pair of DeWalts. Then to store them in a place they won’t get dirty. It’s vital that I can get to my goggles easily, without moving anything except a cabinet or a locker door. I don’t want to tax my creaky old knees, so no bending to pick up my goggles either. I  need to make my PPE storage as clean and as accessible as I can.

Updated: What is the Best Way to Store Safety Equipment in the Garage?

UPDATE: These cubes are no longer available, so I’ve updated this section with a new and frankly better idea. Use the Akro-Mils 06702 or 06703 TiltView storage system, with or without the rail mounts.

Safety Equipment

Dewalt Safety Goggles
Dewalt Safety Goggles

3M Peltor X-Series EarmuffsPretty much everyone needs goggles and ear muffs. Let’s get the largest dimensions of these items to make sure they’ll fit in our storage bins. The DeWalt goggles are 8.1 in. x 6.7 in. x 4 in. The 3M ear muffs are 4.41 in. x 6.54 in.  x 6.54 in.

Safety Equipment Storage

Akro-MilsThree bin TiltView: Store goggles and ear muffs inside is a leading storage bin manufacturer. They offer some seriously nice, sturdy and attractive storage bins. I would have recommended the stacking bins for storing safety equipment, but they are too deep for the average garage wall cabinet. But Akro-Mils does offer an elegant safety equipment storage solution that I do recommend for the garage. The TiltView storage systems are closed door boxes installed inside a protective cabinet. The doors tilt out for access. You can see through the clear plastic to immediately identify the contents. Store the goggles and earmuffs in a TiltView to protect them from garage dust and bug stuff. The separated system makes it easy to store one and only one safety item per box.

Dimension Summary

Our bins must be at least 8.1 in. W x 6.7.  D x 6.54 in. H, which is a combination of the largest dimensions of both items we’re storing.

The Three-Bin Storage System

The Akro-Mils 06702 tilt-out storage system is a two-bin design.  The total width is 24 in. Each bin is 12 in. across. The bins are 13 in. deep and 14 in. high. The 12x13x14 bin is ample room for the goggles and ear muffs. The Akro-Mils 06703 tilt-out storage system is a three-bin design. The bins are 8 in. wide, 8 in. deep and 10 in. high. You can store three safety items in the three bins. Akro-Mils offers both a panel and a rail system to hang the bins.  Slide the back of the bin onto the panel slots or the rail slots.

Here’s everything you need to store your safety equipment:

Get the bins that fit the size and quantity you need. Then mount the bins on either the panel or the rails:

Alternative Tilt Out Bins to Store Safety Gear

Deflect-o Tilt Bin is 23 5/8 x 7 3/4 x 9 1/2, 3 Bins, Making Each Bin’s Width About 7.7 inches Wide

Safco 12 Compartment Organizer Holds 4 Bins Across at 34 Inches Wide Making Each Bin Approx. 9 Inches Wide x 13 D x 8.5 H

Langria 20 Cube Organizer 4 Bins Across at 58 Inches Wide makes Each Cube Approx. 14.5 Inches Wide x 14.6 D x 10.75 H

Kousi Portable Shoe Organizer – Note that Only Every Other Row is Covered – 48 Inches Wide with One Divider Makes Bins 24 Inches Wide x 12 D x 12 H Each

Muffs and goggles in the 2 bin TiltView
Muffs and goggles in the 2 bin TiltView

Update: Original Article Continues Below Store PPE in Cubbies inside Cabinets

Cubes inside Suncast Cabinet

I looked at drawers, cabinets, baskets, garage wall organizers, closets and plain cabinets. I’ve decided on the best way to store eye goggles and hearing muffs in the garage is to insert a multiple-cube cubby into an eye-level wall cabinet. The cubes partition the space. I can label each edge. When I search for a respirator or goggles, I’ll know where they are. I will also know they’re stored in a clean place. Closed door cabinets protect safety equipment. I want protection from the dust and car exhaust. It’s just that I’ve found that other solutions allow my goggles to get dirty or lost.

The Alaspan 2x2 organizer cube
The Alaspan 2×2 organizer cube

What are Organization Cubes?

Organization cubes are stackable cubby holes, usually made of wood, MDF or melamine. The cube walls act as separators. By separating each item into its own cubby hole, they don’t pile on top of one another. It’s also easy to apply labels to the cube edges so I can assign a home to each piece of gear. Retailers often sell organization cubes as floor shelves. That’s not how we will use them to store PPE. Each cube is only so large, encouraging you to put one — and only one — item per cube. Before buying a cube, it’s essential you measure your largest item. It has to fit inside a cube.

3M Peltor X-Series Earmuffs
The superbly comfortable 3M Peltor X-Series Earmuffs

How to Match Your Gear to Your Cabinet Interior Organization Solution

This is a super easy but totally essential step to getting this right. Put all your PPE on a table. Find the largest width, height or depth from the entire pile. Make sure your cubby interiors exceed the largest dimension.

Safety Storage Organization Examples that Work

The Suncast Commercial Wall Cabinet has 1 shelf which you will not use if you go with insert Option "A"
The Suncast Commercial Wall Cabinet has 1 shelf which you will not use if you go with insert Option “A”

I created an example below using the Suncast Commercial Blow Molded Wall Cabinet. Option “A” is to take out the shelf, and then use the entire cabinet interior height. Options “B” and “C”  are to use the top and bottom cabinet shelves. Measure the cabinet interior height, width and depth. Measure the cubby exterior height, width and depth. Ensure all the cubby measurements are smaller than the cabinet measurements. Next, measure an individual cubby height, width and depth. Measure your largest safety equipment items. Ensure the biggest items will fit in the cubbies.

Option A: Use the entire interior height but not the cabinet shelf
Option A: Use the entire interior height but not the cabinet shelf

Option A: Use the Entire Cabinet Interior

Use a Suncast wall cabinet. Do not insert the removable shelf. Use the entire cabinet interior height and width. Size the cubbies just under the cabinet interior height and width. Also size the cubby depth so that the cabinet doors will close.

Shelf Height Insert
Store the cubbies on the first and second shelves

Option B/C: Use the Top and Bottom Halves of the Cabinet Interior

Use a Suncast wall cabinet. Insert the removable middle shelf. Use the entire cabinet interior top and the entire interior cabinet bottom. Size the cubbies to sit on the shelf (top) and the bottom shelf (bottom). Size the cubbies’ depth so that the cabinet door still properly closes.

Four Personal Protection Equipment Storage Solutions You Shouldn’t Use

The bottom line is, you have to have easy access to clean safety equipment. You want your goggles and face masks to be easy to find. And you want them to be clean. Baskets, bins and boxes work great for other garage storage problems. But bins and shelves leave safety equipment exposed to the dirty garage air. For PPE to protect you, you have to protect your PPE.

Don’t Store PPE on Tables or Workbenches

Don’t leave PPE on garage tables or workbenches. Don’t expose safety equipment to garage exhaust, concrete dust or cut grass. Dirty PPE is about as attractive as getting hit in the eye. If your goggles are dirty, you’re going to resist putting them on. Don’t leave PPE exposed to the garage air.

Don’t Store PPE in Boxes or Portable Bins

Boxes and bins with lids protect PPE from garage pollution. That’s the only advantage they have over leaving the PPE out in the garage air. You should stack boxes and bins. Will you want to unstack boxes to get to your goggles? When you need to saw wood or use an angle grinder, will you let flying debris hit you in the face? Will you run the lawn mower without ear protection? Visualize yourself finding your goggles. Are you pushing other safety equipment out of the way? Are you pushing other boxes and bins away from the one you need? Don’t use inaccessible boxes and bins.

Don’t Store PPE in Drawers

Do you have a kitchen junk drawer? Does it contain pens, keys, menus, rubber bands and screwdrivers? If you put your goggles in the junk drawer, would they stay clean? Junk drawers start out so organized. Within a week, they become catch-alls. Give your PPE a home. Don’t mix it with junk. Drawers don’t work. You put many items in drawers. Isolate PPE so it’s easy to find. If you put the ear muffs, respirator and goggles in a junk drawer, will you be able to easily reach them without junk getting in the way? Will you have the discipline not to throw sprinklers and a dirty trowel on top? Once you contaminate the PPE drawer with an oil filter, the game is over. Drawer storage is too messy for safety equipment.

Don’t Store PPE in Wall-Hanging Baskets or Buckets, or on Wall-Hanging Shelves or Hooks

Basketballs pretty much dust themselves off after hitting the court a few times. Lawn rakes come in pre-dirtied from the yard. A little more garage dust or exhaust isn’t going to hurt them. I want to pick up a basketball and a rake, even if they have a little dirt on them. But I don’t want to put a dirty pair of ear muffs on my head. I need my safety goggles, hearing protection and face masks to be clean and to stay clean. While baskets, shelves and hooks make garage stuff accessible, they don’t keep garage stuff clean. They don’t offer protection from air junk. Safety items exposed to garage air are going to get unappealing. Don’t use open-air wall-hanging storage for personal safety equipment.

Don’t Store PPE in a Simple Cabinet

While far superior to non-cabinet solutions, simple cabinets lack organization components. Simple cabinets offer cleanliness, but they do not offer accessibility. Say you put your gloves and goggles on a cabinet’s lowest. You will be left with inches of useless space above the gloves and goggles. I dare you to avoid the temptation to stack stuff onto your goggles and gloves. All that space going to waste will make you crazy. You will put pesticide and window cleaner in the empty space. When you need your goggles, this stuff will be in your way. It will be on top of your stuff! Simple cabinets offer cleanliness, but in practical use, they are not very accessible.

People Also Ask

What safety equipment should I wear when using a chainsaw? A helmet, goggles, safety mitt, ear muffs, pants, jacket, gloves and boots.