Sanding can present safety concerns; who knows what ghosts and goblins are hiding and waiting for release when you stir up the dust? A complete hazard assessment should always be performed to identify hazards present and options for dealing with them.
Professional sanding commonly means a respirator should be used. Before occupational use of any respirator, a written respiratory protection program must be implemented meeting all the requirements of OSHA 29 CFR 1910.134 including, but not limited to, medical evaluation, fit testing, and training, and applicable OSHA substance specific standards. In Canada, CSA standard Z94.4 requirements must be met and/or requirements of the applicable jurisdiction, as appropriate.
Of course, the hazard assessment may often point to the fact that additional personal protective equipment (PPE), such as eye protection or coveralls, may also be needed.
Here are some thoughts to consider, whether you are doing a simple sand on up to working with lead paint. Again, though, each situation may be different and protection should be dictated by the specific hazard assessment.
Any N95 respirator can typically be used for respiratory protection from general sanding. If you are sanding lead-based paint, however, you would need to use a “100” level particulate filter (a “P100” or “N100”). Coveralls are useful, too. They not only help keep dust and debris off your clothes, but once you take them off, the particulates stay with the coverall rather than on your clothing. Without coveralls, your clothing can collect some of the dust and debris; when you move to other areas, you can inadvertently bring those particulates and contaminate those other areas.
Protecting the eyes is also usually a good idea, and may be required based on the hazard assessment. Two popular choices to help keep the particulates away from the eyes might be goggles (such as with a D4 rating for dust or D5 rating for fine dust) or a pair of safety eyewear with a dust dam.
Lastly, if you are using a power sander, wearing a pair of earplugs or earmuffs with your other PPE could be a good idea. As always, however, one has to go back to the hazard assessment to see if hearing protection is needed (or could cause other hazards). In addition, you have to ensure that PPE is compatible whenever multiple types of PPE are used – for instance, you would not want to wear eye protection that gets in the way of the hearing protection forming a good seal and doing its job.
Below are some 3M products that you might want to check out for specific tasks:
For general sanding, dust and debris, 3M's Respirator with Cool Flow™ Valve might be a good option. Of course, you need to carefully read the packaging and user instructions. But one popular feature is that the valve will help expel heat and moisture from inside the respirator.
3M has a variety of earplug and earmuff styles to fit your preference.
When working with lead-based paint, you will want heavier-duty Renovation Coveralls. You may also need hearing or eye protection (see above) – but, again, you must always ensure that all PPE you use is compatible with one another and interfering with the protection you are trying to get.