Our cover story this month is all about personal protective equipment. That’s a category of gear that ranges from simple gloves to complex respirators and earphones.

Now, I know most of you are probably being careful, wearing masks and gloves, even eye protection and earplugs. Many of you who handle chemicals probably have some heavy-duty boots, respirators and aprons within arm’s reach in which you’re pretty comfortable working.

However, there are still a few too many people in our industry (maybe even one or two reading this right now) who make excuses when it comes to PPE. “It’s too bulky,” “I’m too busy,” “It’s too expensive”… the list goes on. There’s probably even someone out there saying, “I look goofy and it messes my hair up.”

If you’re using any excuses for not having and using PPE, cut it out.

All it takes is one slip, one mistake, one freak accident to change your life and make you a believer. Not only that, but it doesn’t have to come as a dramatic injury from not using steel-toed boots that one time. Especially with chemicals, the damage can be slow, cumulative and deadly.

Unfortunately, I hear stories all too often of injuries that are entirely preventable. I talked to an orchardist in his 40s from Washington state a while back who heard maybe every third word I was saying, and we were in a quiet area right next to each other. Years of sitting on a tractor or using hand tools without ear protection had left him half deaf and suffering with tinnitus. You can bet he regrets not throwing in earplugs now.

I’m sure a lot of you reading this right now have some tales to tell. Most likely they involve a family member “back in the day” who never took care of himself and now can’t hear, is missing a finger (or two), can’t breathe, lost an eye, has some impressive scars – or worse. A few of you probably can share stories of your own; they’re rarely funny, either, even in hindsight.

Farmers are a tough bunch. You work long hours, you run a business, you get dirty and you push through the pain. There’s no reason to make life harder, though. Why take a chance with your health – and your future?

Besides, I hear safety gear is the next big style movement on the Paris runways. You heard it here first.