Safety First

May the first or 1st of May is International woodworkers safety day. Mark from the came up with the idea last year. It’s a good idea even if it can be repeativie and even boring at times and sometimes overly done. It reminds you of the things that you need to remember.

So it goes with out saying about wearing your safety glasses, earmuffs, dust masks & face masks, steel cap boots and full armour protection while using your power tools. But it does depend on the tool how far you go with your safety gear.  Tablesaw, I agree, ears, eyes and even a dust mask… sometimes full armour to protect from them kick backs… But and there is always a but…

I personally think the best safety device is your brain. If your brain is not working don’t turn on the power tool. If common sense has been thrown out the window get rid of your power tools because you are an accident waiting to happen. However if you think before you turn on any power tool (including a simple scroll saw) think where the blade (or bit) is going to be what way it is spinning etc… you can avoid 80% of accidents.

These are only some simple tips… there are 100’s more.

Safety Equipment: Make sure your eye wear are fitting and you have minimum amount of gaps around your eyes where shrapnel can get under. Remember you probably can not stop the fine dust particles, but you are trying to lower the chances if you have a chip come flying at you. Example at work the other day using the sanding grinder when the disk decided it had had enough and flew apart and part hit me right on my safety glasses, and all I could say was that was lucky I was wearing my glasses.

Get a fitting dust mask that seals nicely around your nose and chin and if you are spraying use a proper spray mask and check your filters are not clogged.

Some people prefer ear plugs over ear muffs, I personally prefer ear muffs and I use Grade 5. These give the best protection. Hearing lose over time happens as we get older there is no point in speeding up the process.

Tablesaws: If you are doing a long rip use the riving knife and blade guard. Use your push sticks, a good practice is to put a 100-150mm safety margin around you blade for your fingers. If you go under this then use your push sticks even if you think there is enough room.

Never do freehand cuts and always use either the rip fence or mitre guide. Even better for cross cuts if you have a cross cut sled use it.

Try not stand directly behind the piece you are cutting, off centre yourself so ‘if’ you do get a kick back it shouldn’t hit you. While this is not always possible especially on larger stock.

Use an off feed table or roller on larger or longer rips and cuts, this helps support the pieces and can help stop kick backs or blade riding when the stock drops of the back.

Make sure you don’t have loose fitting sleeves that could catch the blade when you are reaching for or pushing the stock through and try not reach over the moving blade.

Disc  sanders: Using the rest and ensure you are on the down stroke side of the spinning sander which will push the item into the rest, otherwise if you use the other side it could lift it from your hands and throw it across your workshop.

I will admitt that has happened to me. My problem is my sander spins in the opposite direction to the one I use at work. So I am so use to using one side and then come home and have to stop and think to use the opposite side. Make sure you have a good hold of the item.

Mitre Saws: The main thing I see here is people try and cut a very short and small piece of stock, not being able to hold or clamp the piece to make the cut. The piece being thrown or even worse hand being caught or jerked into the blade…

Ensure you have a safety margin where, your hand is not where the blade is cutting… again 100-150mm. If the piece can be clamped, clamp it, especially if it is an odd shape or is unbalanced on the saw. Use supports or rollers to support the stock being cut. Make a mitre station or buy a mobile stand. (These have adjust arms for long stock to be cut and balanced)

To avoid, well lowering the risk of kick back let the blade come up to speed before cutting the stock an then let the blade stop before removing or lifting the blade.

Bandsaw: Bandsaws are on the safer side of power tools yet can still do a lot of damage if you are not thinking straight, so you still have to have respect the tool.

Make sure you have the right type of blade in the saw for the right type of cutting you are wanting to do. No point having a small fine cutting blade if you are re-sawing some stock and vise versa. While the blade will do it if you take your time but you may end up pushing a bit more than you should end results broken blade, or worse pushing to hard and fast near the end of a resaw cut and your fingers get in the way before you relise because of a slip.

First Aid Kit: It goes without saying that you ensure you;

A)- have a first aid kit in your shop and;
B)- if you have used it recently make sure you restock it.

You can wear all the safety protection gear in the world, but if your brain is switched off then you will most likely still cause an injury.

The final tip I try to follow is simple enough, a tidy shop, especially around the main work area. While again this can be hard at times, make sure you can not trip over, or slip on have something fall on you, especially when you are using a power tool. Watch where your power cables and air hoses are so you are not tripping over them or cutting through them. Make sure your off cuts are not in the way.

While again all these are all simple basic safety tips it is usually the simple basic ones that people need reminding of. Safe woodworking and have fun in the shop.