Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Safety Week 2012: Don't let your guard down

This is Safety Week at the Woodwhisperer site – a time in which safety in the workshop is the focus. Such a topic is extremely important and I thought I'd share a couple of stories.

If you are a frequent woodworker, some processes within the shop become common place. Ripping a board on the table saw frequently becomes no big deal – the same is true for many of the operations I do with my band saw and to a lesser extent my router. The one tool that still scares me a little is the powered miter saw mainly because much more of a big spinning blade is in view and mine sits higher off the floor than my table saw. This means it is closer to my face. But all tools should be respected; be they power tools or hand tools.

I have been fortunate in that during nearly 30 years of woodworking I have not had a significant accident in my workshop. About the worst thing that has happened to me did not really involve a power tool. While cutting a somewhat long board with my miter saw, the heavy cut off fell to the floor with a heavy, sharp corner coming to rest on top of my bare foot. The pain was surprising; I wondered if I had fractured something. Not a major injury, but a stupid one for sure. The saw was not at fault, I simply had never taken the time to build a proper miter station which would support a board like this. Lessons learned: improve my miter saw station and don’t do woodworking barefooted (a new miter saw station will be an upcoming project of mine).

The most serious accident that has happened in my shop actually involved my father. He had stopped by the house to cut some boards and while doing some ripping, a thin cut off dropped into the throat of the table saw (see the photo above). With the saw still in operation, my Dad decided to remove the cut off. I could see this event unfolding from the driveway but the sound of the saw was greater than my screaming mouth, and the accident happened. The cut off made contact with the spinning blade and kicked back driving a nice sized splinter through two of his fingers. He could not pull them apart because the splinter was so long. But, after a trip to the doctor and some antibiotics, he made a full recovery.

Since that time, I have begun using a zero clearance insert with my table saw which eliminates this kind of problem (I should also find some kind of acceptable blade guard for my saw - mine came down almost immediately after getting my table saw.)

The point though is to avoid becoming complacent in the shop. The more woodworking you do, the odds are greater that an accident will happen, unless you work smart and respect the damage your tools can do.


David Scott said...

My dad was a master cabinet furniture maker yet he over the years lost the tips to his fingers. Focusing on the cut he lost track of where his fingers were. All it takes is one moment of forgetfulness and they start calling you stubby.

Your story was food for thought.

Jane Bell said...

Good points here about shop safety. Like the new look of your blog!

Jeff Branch said...

All it takes is one moment of forgetfulness and they start calling you stubby.

David, I'm sure I'll remember your advise!

Thanks Jane; I decided to ditch my old template when the new Blogger updates were not compatible with it.

Charleen Larson said...

I'm tempted to one-up you with a woodworking accident that happened to a friend of mine but instead I'll just congratulate you on your great blog look.

(Besides, he regained most of the range of motion in that finger eventually.)

Jeff Branch said...

Charleen - thanks for stopping by. Fortunately it would not take much to one up me. :)