This past week the issue of safety hit a bit too close to home. A former co-worker, good friend and student of mine had an accident while using a table saw. Perversely, I consider him to be very fortunate as this was an accident that he will recover from and he is all in one piece. Below are two pictures of this person's hand. They are not pleasant, but they are an excellent reminder to pay attention to safety.
Before the accident, he'd been to woodworking class and had lost a pair of glasses in the parking log at the school. He returned to get them and found them damaged on the ground in the leaves. He arrived home to do some more woodworking in the garage where his tools are. Before he could do that, he had to move the truck that he keeps in the garage. The truck didn't start and he first tried charging the battery. It didn't start. He then added some gas and fired the truck up. At this point, he's tired, and distracted thinking about the glasses and the truck.
This is his view of the incident from the email he sent me:
Basically I was rushing and didn't take the time to make the necessary safety components to make a safe cut and tried to wing it. Well I "winged" it when the part bound up and flipped over dragging the back of my ring and middle fingers. The index got a little cut too but that was a nothing cut.
Safety is the most important concern in the shop.
If you didn’t get that, I repeat - Safety is the most important concern in the shop.
Be sure to read and understand the manufacturer’s instructions and safety recommendations for any equipment that you use. Use common sense and proper safety equipment, clamps and fixtures when working. You’re going to want to be around in one piece to use your canoe after you finish it!
You want to protect yourself from the inherent dangers of the boatbuilding process – there are many of them. You need to protect your eyes from debris, your ears from loud noises, your body from the tools, chemicals and particulates that you will be exposed to during the building of your canoe. Also, do not work when you are tired, angry or distracted – these are some of the most likely reasons for accidents and mistakes. Work when you are well rested, focused and are not rushed. Never, never, never use tools while under the influence of alcohol or medications that may impair you.
- Wear appropriate eye protection, ear protection, gloves and a dust mask as necessary.
- Wear gloves or respirators as necessary.
- Do not wear loose fitting clothes or dangling jewelry.
- Wear sturdy shoes or boots.
- Don't work in a messy shop.
- Don't start a power tool with loose items nearby.
- Don't expose more of a cutter than absolutely necessary to do the job.
- Don't put a portable power tool (i.e. router) down while the cutter is still spinning.
- Make sure you know where others are when you working with tools.
- Plan ahead before you make your cut.
- Don't work with damaged cutters/blades/bits.
- When passing a tool, make sure the recipient has a firm grip.
- Retract blades or tools below the table after use when practical.
- Don't make a cut with an "iffy" set-up. If it makes you uncomfortable, it's probably "iffy".
- Disconnect power when changing bits or blades.
- Hand tools can be as dangerous as power tools.
- Use the right tool for the job.
Please, be careful.