What’s getting by your Danger Radar?

1 May

It’s safety day!

I have to say one of the biggest fears I have as a woodworker involves lobbing off a finger. I feel superstitious even writing those words! I’ll stop to knock on wood – there that’s better. But the point is, I think I know enough to be afraid of tools that could accomplish such a feat. However I feel that many dangers go overlooked. The ones that live under the radar are far more prone to lead to accidents.

I’ll give two such examples from accidents that occurred at work recently. One was a router accident. I consider palm routers specifically to live under the danger radar. They are so easily manipulated- heck you can be charmed into using them one handed when you see how well they fit in the hand, and how well they perform at so many tasks. Palm routers at my work are used almost as frequently as you might use a utility knife.I think this breeds the complacency that allows a dangerous tool to slip under our danger radar. Imagine how shocked everyone was when what was supposed to be a routine procedure led to 30 stitches.

The person involved had set up a straight edge and their router with a flush trim bit. The problem was that they had failed to notice that their cutter was out too far which meant that instead of the cutter riding up against the straight edge guided by the bearing, the cutter sunk right into the straight edge because the bearing had nothing to register against. This led to problem number two. Because we are taught to either have someone hold a vacuum hose while we cut, or hold it ourselves- which was the method used at the time of the accident- the person only had one hand free to deal with a router kick back. The router wrested itself from that hand and skipped over the other arm cutting a jagged path over the forearm.  The wound, I was told, was 1/2″ wide by 1/4″ deep and roughly 6″ in length. Someone told me it looked like the work of an animal. Thankfully the story ends well in that there was no serious damage done to tendons, nerves, or arteries. A full recovery is expected. Yes this mainly happened due to lack of attention, but also due to giving a palm router less credit than it should have as a danger in the shop. This thing has a cutter on the end that spins at 30,000 rpm why do we think one handed operation will suffice? Because we are convinced it’s manageable.  I have since decided to at all costs avoid holding my palm router with one hand- much like we are taught to keep both hands on a chisel to avoid terrible results.

The next tale is a bit of a surprise frankly. Even the most savvy woodworkers may not have seen this coming. We use super glue very often at work. It’s a staple. We fill syringes with the glue to apply it with perfect accuracy and also in the hopes of better controlling the volume of glue to be applied. Everyone knows to be very careful not to stab themselves with these syringes, and we certainly know to be careful with the glue itself, as it works in an instant, and is super strong. We have solvent for the super glue, but it takes a lot of persuading to properly UN-glue something- even with the solvent.What flew under the radar, then you ask? When getting the bottle out of a storage cabinet, a co-worker had failed to notice that the bottle’s top was not on properly. I don’t know the exact circumstances that followed but what I do know is the bottle spilled down the person’s shirt. The shirt then began to smoke! That’s right it was in the early stages of combusting! Someone had to use an extinguisher to remedy the situation. I don’t even know if there were further complications from the accident- like did the glue manage to contact the person’s skin etc. I have to say even after that accident, I have still found bottles with their tops not properly fastened.

How’s your danger radar? I say we all have to think hard about what it is that our danger radar isn’t picking up on a day to day basis in the shop. I realise we can’t stop to analyse every little thing we do for the danger in it, but there surely are a few things that once upon a time were on your danger radar, and have since fallen by the wayside. Maybe it’s a simple matter of not using personal protection equipment, or using short-cuts that are higher risk just to avoid setting up another machine. It’s different for everyone. And no one is perfect. That’s the reason we need to stay on top of shop safety. Safe woodworking to all!

Here are some links to other posts I’ve written on shop safety:





One Response to “What’s getting by your Danger Radar?”

  1. Megan Rain May 1, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    Thank you for your gentle reminder.

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