Back when I was in the Army I flew a lot with an old instructor pilot that before each flight he would say “be safe, learn something, and have fun”. He was very specific about the order it was said and it has always stayed with me and believe it translates to anything we do, especially woodworking. Whether you are a hobbyist or a professional woodworker safety should always be your first goal after that hopefully we will learn something and have fun doing it.
Most of the accidents I have had myself or witnessed others have been due to user error and being 6 years prior military, a project manager on large construction jobs, and a life long woodworker I have had plenty of opportunity to hurt myself. Most of us tend to forget some of the basics when we are on a tight schedule or have a lot on our minds. Below are a few general safety practices that I use and hope others will incorporate into their woodworking and well any other endeavor they partake in.
• Always unplug machines when adjusting them. I make it a habit to leave my machines unplugged when I am not using them and although it takes a few seconds longer each time to reach down and plug them up, it could safe me from an accident.
• Wear safety glasses when working with machinery. Keep extra sets around so that you always have a pair on hand.
• Wear hearing protection, most of us are pretty good about wearing safety glasses but forget about hearing protection. The most damaging noise to our ears is often at a decibel that we cannot even hear.
• Avoid wearing loose clothing. Shirt sleeves and tails can get caught in saws and drill and cause serious harm. Tuck in your shirt and if wearing long sleeves roll them up to avoid possible mishaps.
• Avoid standing in the path of possible kickback. When using table saws and planers avoid standing directly behind the board. I try and position myself so that if the board kicks back I am out of harms way. I have had a board kickback when I was growing up and cracked an oak garage door, luckily I was standing to the side and the board missed me!
• Always keep a respirator on hand. We often think of wearing a respirator when spraying chemicals but wood dust can be just as harmful. Woods such as Cocobolo, Ebony, Teak, and Wenge can cause respiratory problems and even woods such as Oak and Birch can cause irritation.
• Avoid distractions. Many of us use our home shops as a way to get away and as a stress reliever. But after a long day at our “day jobs” or if you are a professional woodworker thinking about a deadline we do not always have our full attention at the task at hand. Maybe try and work on a few not so hazardous tasks when you first get in the shop until you have had a moment to relax and concentrate on the task ahead.
• Keep your tools sharp! Keeping your tools sharpened is one of the best preventive measures other than your safety equipment for preventing kickback. A dull blade or bit is much more likely to catch or throw splinters than a sharp tool.
These are just a few tips that I use every time I go into the shop and there are many more that I have not even included. By far the best safety practice that we can have is to just slow down and think before we do something. So remember:
BE SAFE, LEARN SOMETHING, AND HAVE FUN!!!
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-- Chris Adkins, http://highrockwoodworking.com/