Woodshop Safety: Best Practices for Working with Your Hands
Woodworking is an intriguing hobby; there's nothing more relaxing than using your hands to create something meaningful and unique. However, if you don't follow basic woodshop safety rules, it can become a hazardous activity.
While the rules are practical and involve nothing but common sense, surprisingly many hobbyists fail to apply them during practice. Woodworking tools can be dangerous if not used properly or if they’re mishandled. By taking specific precautions, woodworkers can drastically minimize the chances of accidents and injuries, especially when handling power tools.
In order to ensure total safety culture, commit to these seven rules and experience a much safer and more enjoyable woodworking hobby:
1. Gear Up
The most critical safety rule of woodworking is to use appropriate safety gear.
It's important to wear hearing protection that is suitable for the level of noise in your work area. Depending on the frequency and type of noise, you may want to use either earplugs or a professional headband.
You should also use gloves to protect hands from splinters, but avoid wearing them when handling rotating blades where they can get caught in the machine. Also, be sure to wear safety glasses and/or face shields even if you need to operate a machine for a couple of seconds only. It's a good idea to use protective footwear when working in a woodshop as there tends to be heavy equipment and sharp materials lying around.
Lastly, make sure you’re wearing properly fitting clothing that isn’t too loose and is comfortable for the environment. Fully covered attire can help protect you from wayward wood chips.
2. Stay Alert and Focused
Alcohol and woodworking don't go together. Because you'll be working with many sharp tools and heavy machinery, it's a good idea to stay away from the workshop even if you’re under the slightest influence.
All the safety equipment and safety procedures in the world don’t make a difference when you’re intoxicated, and even a little alcohol can mess with your ability to focus. You're less likely to encounter any difficulties when working in the woodshop if you are sober.
Basically, avoid using any substances that would impair your ability to make sound judgments when using heavy machinery in a woodshop.
3. Always Remember to Disconnect
Always remember to disconnect power before changing blades or leaving the woodshop. So many woodworkers, whether a rookie or seasoned professional, have lost a finger (or worse!) by ignoring this one simple but very important rule.
Make sure to remove all power cords from outlets to ensure machines and tools are completely disconnected from an electricity source. There is a chance that a switch can malfunction or accidentally get turned on.
Do you know what's frustrating when working in a small space? Lots of clutter! Objects on the floor are a tripping hazard. To avoid falling over cords and lacking space with a cluttered work station, limit yourself to using one extension cord and keep surfaces clean and free of items not in use.
Keeping your workshop uncluttered, well swept, and well lit is important. Spills should be cleaned right away and floor areas should be leveled and not slippery. Good housekeeping practices go a long way for woodwork enthusiasts and will reduce the number of injuries and accidents from slips, trips, and falls.
5. Avoid Using Dull Tools
This may seem like common sense, but you should never use a dull blade or cutting equipment to cut wood. Not only is it dangerous to use blunt tools, but it’s also counterproductive, as it’s harder to accomplish the desired task. Dull tools are likely to kick back or bind and won’t produce a clean cut. Try to keep blades sharp and clean to achieve safer and better results.
6. Handle Tools Properly
Always use tools and machines the way they are intended to be used. Also, when handling heavy machinery, make sure you’re operating with extra caution.
While using a table saw, keep your hands and arms away from the rotating blade, especially when removing waste. You can either use a push stick to push material into the cutting area, or jigs to keep hands safe during cutting procedures.
When operating a cutter, be always sure to work against it. The blade or router bit should cut against the motion of the wood instead of with it.
7. Keep Distractions Away
Because you're working with dangerous equipment in a woodshop, your entire focus should be on the task at hand. Avoid distractions when actively working with tools. If you need to attend to something else when operating a power tool, always complete the ongoing task before dealing with a diversion. If you're working with more than one person in the woodshop, don't interrupt or startle an operator when he or she is using any equipment or power tools.
Safety is the Priority
Whether it’s a private workshop or an entire job site, taking precautions to ensure your personal safety and that of everyone around you is critical. Even for experienced woodworkers, it’s easy to slip and cut an ungloved hand, or trip over some clutter and come off second best in a tussle with a rusty nail.
SafetyTek exists to protect contractors and keep safety standards high across the board. We’d love to hear your tips or thoughts on staying safe in the woodshop!