How safe are we really?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Safety in the Woodworking Shop forum

Forum topic by MrRon posted 06-02-2014 12:31 AM 1598 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View MrRon's profile


4800 posts in 3272 days

06-02-2014 12:31 AM

I have noticed that the forum “Safety in the Woodworking Shop” gets very few hits compared to other forums on this Lumber Jocks site. Safety is not something we should assume we know and don’t need reminding. When there is so much concern over safety recently, I feel I need to speak up to enlighten and educate the woodworker as to safety issues. We all have our own ideas of what safety is or isn’t. I will try to address the issue of safety, as it is a very important part of woodworking. Woodworking accidents are growing in numbers due to the influx of new woodworkers and do-it-your-selfer’s. One of the most dangerous new trends is the proliferation of U-tube videos. Although there is a lot of good information available, there is unfortunately also a lot of misinformation regarding safety. Anyone watching such a video, can come away thinking it’s ok to emulate the video. Most times safety is not addressed, or even implied. Anyone following such a video and ending up on the injury list, could sue the video maker. I would think twice before posting a “how-to” video.

Tool safety is a topic I have been giving much thought to recently. I have been reading accounts of injuries that have been sustained by table saw operators. There appears to be two schools of thought. One school stresses knowing your machine and staying focused on the job at hand. The other school seems to favor safety devices that will protect the user from injury, such as “Sawstop” technology, use of riving knives, blade guards and after market devices, like feather boards, grippers and hold-down devices. Some of these devices do seem to provide a certain measure of safety, but not a guarantee. Used correctly, they can and do provide safety. I have found that safety instructions included with every power tool, if followed 100%, can reduce the chance of injury by 100%. The problem here is, especially with new tool users is to skip the warnings and cautions and get down to the “lets make sawdust”. It has been my observation that injuries caused by power tools has been by first time tool users. I don’t know how many people read the safety section in an instruction manual, but I would wager a very small percentage. I probably am guilty, but I have read safety rules at some time. Safety rules appear to be the same for any power tool, regardless of type. Some people read the safety rules and others don’t. Of those who do read them, many read, but don’t comprehend fully the consequences of making contact with a spinning saw blade. If you are a gun person, you know that a bullet can injure or kill you, but you can’t comprehend it until you are shot. Power tools, especially tools with spinning blades can inflict serious injury similar to those from a firearm.

On the question of comprehension, a child goes to school; reads his schoolbook, takes a test and fails to give the right answer. The reason why is because the child either didn’t study or did study, but failed to comprehend what was read. Adults can and do show the same behavior. Joe DIY’er comes home with his new and first table saw; is anxious to make sawdust, casually glances over the instruction manual, flips the switch and enters the unknown zone. With luck, he gets by without any problem. He may have read the safety instructions, but may not have comprehended them. This is a pretty common phenomenon. I realize in this world of high pressure, people are not able to apply 100% of their attention on the task at hand, as there are other things that require attention. Unfortunately, woodworking and working with dangerous power tools does require 100% of our attention.

We are required to take a test for a driver’s license. Some states require gun safety courses, Commercial Drivers License (CDL) applicants have to demonstrate their ability to operate their 18 wheeler. Airline pilots have to demonstrate their ability, as do ship captains. OSHA is there to protect workers in the work place, but there is no one there to protect the home diy’er from power tool dangers that I know of, but maybe there should be. I am certainly not in favor of any agency getting involved in my use of tools, but if left unaddressed, could result in federal intervention, and we don’t want to see that. I wasn’t aware, but it seems someone is keeping track of injuries caused by power tools as reported by hospital emergency rooms. I don’t recall the latest numbers, but it appears it’s getting to the point that some congressmen are starting to pay attention. While we don’t want to see restrictions placed on us, like in Europe, we must take responsibility for our own safety and work safely.

Enter Sawstop. Although many are opposed to the inventor, Steve Gann, he may be trying to close the gap left by the DIY’ers non-comprehension of safety instructions. The safety instruction are there, but if you choose to ignore them, the resulting injury is your own fault and no one else’s. Sawstop steps in and protects us from our own stupidity.

21 replies so far

View bigblockyeti's profile (online now)


5140 posts in 1749 days

#1 posted 06-02-2014 12:53 AM

Pretty safe.

View Picklehead's profile


1041 posts in 1958 days

#2 posted 06-02-2014 01:30 AM

Can you see the common element in the need to test people for the following licenses: Driving, commercial driving, gun use, airline pilots?

All of those activities have the potential to endanger OTHER people.

MY stupidity in MY workshop endangers ME.

The need to protect others from my stupidity is understandable.

The need to protect myself from my stupidity is not.

-- You've got to be smarter than the tree.

View Woodknack's profile


11829 posts in 2409 days

#3 posted 06-02-2014 01:46 AM

It’s easy to couch quarterback, you risk nothing. Put yourself out there and teach safety, make your own videos, write your own articles, rather than just preaching how unsafe others are compared to you.

-- Rick M,

View InstantSiv's profile


262 posts in 1624 days

#4 posted 06-02-2014 02:05 AM

Is there any recent developments with sawstop and law? I hear the same thing but it keeps popping up like it just broke.

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3165 posts in 3138 days

#5 posted 06-02-2014 02:45 AM

Right on, Picklehead! A person has to take responsibility for his/her own safety. I’ve injured myself a couple of times, and just suffered through it as opposed to suing, say, the school district, when I was 14 and hurt myself on the disc sander in summer school wood shop. It was my own damned fault. 45 years later, the injury is almost invisible. There are other unintended self-inflicted wounds that don’t bear mentioning, and didn’t involve suing anyone, since I was the responsible party.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View DIYaholic's profile


19623 posts in 2704 days

#6 posted 06-02-2014 03:09 AM

I read, comprehend & follow all the safety rules of the tool I’m using….
I also wear these…. safety glasses!!!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View DanielS's profile


123 posts in 1966 days

#7 posted 06-02-2014 03:50 AM

I tend to try to work as safely as possible. I use handtools almost entirely. I use the same safety skills that I learned in school for safe lab practice and (not always common) common sense. No matter what type of tools that I’m using, I find keeping my work area clean and taking my time are the biggest factors in staying safe.
I will get cut sometimes, luckily never too badly. My girlfriends daughters working with me adds another level of safety prep. Things that I would assume no one would ever do are around every corner. The rule that seems to help is, everything in the shop can cut your fingers off, so keep them out of the way.
I also wear safety religiously (that doesn’t mean just on Sunday).

-- Daniel S

View roadguy's profile


2 posts in 1484 days

#8 posted 06-02-2014 04:36 AM

Mr. Ron,

I’m a new member to this forum and proud owner of my first table saw. I also survived a chainsaw to forehead (20 feet up in a tree) when I was a young, fearless (stupid) man so I know a little about what you speak. Fortunately I had a rope and a really good plastic surgeon. And no, I did not sue anyone.

I just want to say I second your thoughts about safety. This machine I bought can slice through fingers in an instant, and I don’t think anyone can over emphasis the need to “be careful out there.”

Picklehead posted about the need to protect others from our own stupidity but not from our own. That’s where I must respectfully part ways. There are any number of dangers in society where we have to protect people from their own stupidity. Think airbags, cutoffs on lawnmowers, chain brakes on chainsaws.

Does anyone really think these were bad technological advances or that manufacturers were wrong to implement them? The societal costs of not implementing them (whether voluntarily through the marketplace or legislatively) became prohibitive in terms of product liability litigation, medical costs, lost productivity etc. None of us lives in a vacuum.

Sure the guy may loose a finger (or two or three) in a saw. Let’s assume he doesn’t sue the manufacturer. Instead he’s disabled and possibly out of work (and on unemployment and medicaid). Do we care? You bet we do, we’re paying for it!

View oldnovice's profile


6904 posts in 3397 days

#9 posted 06-02-2014 07:25 AM

roadguy, but there are also some things that no number of safety warnings will ever fix and that is utter stupidity, for example;
  • putting you miniature poodle in the microwave to dry it after a bath
  • using a hair dryer in the showers or bathtub
  • cleaning the exhaust chute of a snow blower while it is running

Need I say more?
Some people do not understand how things they are using every day work so they do not know how to use them safely or properly. Power tools are no different, if you don’t know how these tools work, you cannot use them safely and properly.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

29406 posts in 2367 days

#10 posted 06-02-2014 09:13 AM

I agree with the thought that everyone needs to be safe in their own shop. I have been fortunate. I have received a couple small “dings” from equipment. Nothing major, but incredibly good learning experience. I choose the safest route I can.

I think there is too much “video game mentality” in the world. They feel if something goes wrong they can just restart the game. In the real world, that doesn’t happen. Doctors cannot always sew it together again. But I don’t like the idea of the government mandating safety devices. We don’t need more regulations and you should be responsible for your own actions. If you are making bad decisions with the tablesaw, then you are making bad decisions with other tools as well. We need to use all of our tools properly.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View MrRon's profile


4800 posts in 3272 days

#11 posted 06-02-2014 04:19 PM

oldnovice, When I lived in the Boston area in the 60’s, my across-the-street neighbor did exactly that; clean the exhaust chute with the snow blower running. He lost several fingers. I remember that day. I was sitting in my living room and I heard a scream come from across the street. I went to investigate and found him. He had just gotten the machine and was just trying it out. I suspect he didn’t bother to read the manual through.

View oldretiredjim's profile


206 posts in 2414 days

#12 posted 06-02-2014 04:36 PM

MrRon thanks for the write-up. 399 views means 399 people at least opened the file. Safety is personal until some insurance company is stuck with the bill. Then all our rates go up. Cutting off one’s hand or having a close encounter with energized equipment has lots of secondary implications. It doesn’t hurt any of us to occasionally think safety. Thanks again.

View Redoak49's profile (online now)


3291 posts in 2017 days

#13 posted 06-02-2014 05:42 PM

A thank you to MrRon….I hope that many people will stop and think about safety. Yes, the addition of such things as riving knives, blade guards and other things such as SawStop provide additional safety. However, one can not emphasize the importance of the human part of the safety.

I worked for 40 years in a very heavy industrial environment where the majority of the operators had 35 or more years. We still had accidents that should have been avoided. We developed procedures on how to do things safely, created safety committees with the majority of those on it being operators. We still had accidents where either someone failed to follow the procedures or just had a distracted moment. It on only takes a second to have a serious accident.

An accident does not only effect yourself….your wife, kids and others that depend on you are also effected by your injury and potential loss of being able to work.

Take a second before you turn on a machine and ask yourself if what you are doing is safe or if there is a better way of doing it.

One thing that did seem to help reduce accident rates was meeting just before a shift and discussed a current safety issue and allowed everyone to discuss safety. Each of us should take a second or two and thing about what they are doing in the shop and the potential accidents and how to avoid them. Just going in and starting equipment up while your mind is somewhere else is not the way to avoid accidents.

View knotheadswoodshed's profile


221 posts in 2201 days

#14 posted 06-02-2014 05:45 PM

I think Monte pretty much nailed it (no pun intended).

-- Randy - "I dont make mistakes, I make design change opportunities"

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3614 days

#15 posted 06-02-2014 06:25 PM

The woodshop is as safe as you are! end of story.Some woodworkers immediately employ a safe working life long attitude and retire without a blemish on their record.It helps me to be responsible purely for myself and only myself.Of course everyone should be safe and I hope we do all take it very seriously.However I have seen some things in books and videos that are shameful to say the least. Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

showing 1 through 15 of 21 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics