Lessons from woodworking school- Safety

22 Mar

Okay so if youtuned in last time, my class and I had to visit 3 woodworking businesses and report back. Now we were done researching the field, and were ready to start woodworking!

Not so fast! Turns out the school thought we should cover shop safety first. Okay- fair enough! So we calmed our antsy selves and learned all of the dangers of working in a woodshop.

Aside from the basics (ear, eye, skin, foot, and respiratory protection), we read articles, talked  about common sense, poured over statistics, and drew out a shop plan that would provide key safety features. Before I go into detail on the shop plans we drew up, I’d like to list some of the safety tips and advice that have stuck with me and are relevant to seasoned woodworkers and beginners alike.

General safety information:

  • your attitude will determine how safe you work
  • never approach or touch someone while they’re using a machine- wait until they’ve finished and it’s best to approach from the front.
  • do your most demanding work in the morning, when you’re sharp.
  • understand and respect each machine in your shop
  • keep workpieces as large as you can for as long as you can, a lot of accidents are caused when a workpiece is too small and unstable on a machine.
  • keep your blades sharp
  • keep your work area clean
  • use push sticks and guards whenever possible
  • if it feels dangerous, don’t do it or find another way
  • table saws cause the most accidents because more people own them and use them more frequently than other machines. Make certain you’re focused while on the table saw.
  • prevent hazardous airborne substances when ever possible. Avoid spray finishes by using brushed on oils or varnishes, and avoid dust by using hand tools (plane, scraper)
  • unplug or shut off the secondary power box to any machine before changing the blade or bit.
  • avoid eating heavy lunches, a lot of accidents are reported to occur after lunch and before 3pm
  • know when to quit for the day, accidents happen when focus has been lost or a job has been rushed
  • chisels cause a lot of accidents, keep both hands on the chisel and you’ll easily avoid jabbing yourself
  • choose safety gear that feels comfortable, you’ll be more likely to wear it and prevent hearing loss, eye damage, or even cancer
  • always be aware of the possible dangers of a set-up before starting (know where to stand, which is the safest operation, and that you have enough clear space to maneuver safely)

For safety tips and guidelines for specific machines, stay tuned. Those will come in later shop lesson installments.

Several quizzes later, we had a solid understanding of shop safety. We then needed a crash course on shop layouts.

The shop plan required we have:

  • good flow from machine to machine
  • a logical place for wood storage
  • a work bench
  • natural light, and electrical lighting
  • a cabinet for finishing supplies
  • a fire extinguisher
  • an eye wash station
  • a first aid station

The shop was to be the size of a typical double car garage 18’x22′ and we would have to show how an 8′ board could clear all of the walls and other machines, and also take into consideration that each stationary machine needed a minimum space around it to operate properly and safely. One other consideration was to make certain you had the kickback zone behind the table saw aimed at a benign area of the shop where something could go flying and not harm or damage anything or anyone.

click to view closer up, the list on the side is the legend

I’ve included my sketch. We did this by hand, with rulers, but as you may have seen in my previous post, using google sketch-up is very useful as well!

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