Sometimes we get in a rush to get a particular task completed and forget the simple things. Wearing safety equipment can be the easiest way to protect ourselves from unforeseen accidents, so making safety a priority in our shops is the wise choice. Below are 10 safety tips to remember while working in the wood shop.
1) Always wear and use appropriate safety equipment: Different tools require different safety measures, which explains the different safety features on each tool such as blade guards, riving knife, anti kickback pawls, etc. Never take any safety guard off any tool. One good habit to start is to wear safety glasses and hearing protection with any tool. We will get more into each tool later on in this section.
2) Use a proper dust mask: The wood shop is filled with dust whether you see it or not. Walking through the shop can stir up dust among many other things. Of course, cutting wood is the number one reason for dust in our shops and trying to keep it clean is a difficult task, which we will talk about in a later section. With the ongoing problem of dust, it's best to wear a proper dust mask to filter out what is being breathed in. With most masks, there are different types of filters that can used for different applications. See the resources page for links to the current setup I use.
3) Wear appropriate clothing while working in the wood shop: Just like the previous step, every tool has a specific function and with that function comes a different safety requirement. For instance, you wouldn't want to wear a shirt with loose long sleeves while using a lathe. Your sleeves could get caught in the object your turning and pull your arm into the spinning work piece, so no loose or baggy clothes. Also note that long hair needs to be tied up, jewelry needs to be taken off, and never wear gloves or open toed shoes.
4) Be aware of your surroundings: When working at a tool, you want to give that task your full attention, but before you start with any project, know what's going on around you and also be familiar with the tool as to where the cut off switch is. You never know when an emergency will take place. Take time for as much preparedness as possible, especially if you're working in an environment with more than one person operating power tools. Don't try to speak to someone if they are operating a tool, wait until they're done.
5) Unplug the power: There are several instances when unplugging the power to a tool is a good idea. The most obvious one should be when maintenance is being performed. Maintenance could be changing out a blade or bit, removing dust and debris from the tool, recalibration, etc. A good rule to keep in mind is to unplug the tool anytime your hands are on the tool and not a work piece (wood). Other examples of when to keep your tools unplugged is when your workspace is damp or uninsulated to reduce the risk of electrical shock, when kids or shop visitors are present to avoid accidental engagement, when you're absent in the shop for a long period of time to safeguard against unwanted events. Remember to make sure the switch is in the off position when you plug up the tool.
6) Lighting: Always use good lighting when working with any tool. Never try to use a hand held light fixture while operating a power tool. Good lighting is very important to be able to see the work piece you're working on to avoid misjudgment and accuracy.
7) Never start the blade touching the work piece: When cutting a piece of wood, always start the blade then work the blade into the work piece or the work piece into the blade. If the blade is started on or touching the work piece you could experience kickback, which could result in serious injury. Always use push sticks or push blocks when possible to reduce risk of injury.
8) Cleanliness: It is a good idea to clean up scrap material and return all the tools back to their designated places after every project. This practice is a good idea for several reasons; A) You know where everything is for the next phase or project. B) It keeps the work area clean and clear of clutter that otherwise could cause someone to trip or fall. C) It helps us stay motivated to keep working and creating.
9) Know where the first aid kit, fire extinguisher, and exit is located: Every wood shop should have a fire extinguisher in plain sight and and a first aid kit available. In an event someone or something needs attention you'll know where to look. Also, knowing where the exits are in a shop or building will be important information to know if fire becomes an issue. Also keep in mind others that work around you that might need assistance in an emergency.
10) Never operate power tools under the influence: Never use drugs or alcohol while operating power tools. Impaired vision and judgment could increase the risk of injury.