Woodworking is an enjoyable and satisfying pastime for many individuals; however, it can also pose a significant risk due to the high-speed rotation of blades, potentially causing severe harm.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has reported that in 2017, over 26,000 individuals sought medical treatment in US hospitals for injuries linked to table saws. It is important to note that these figures only pertain to hospital-treated injuries and do not include injuries managed at home or caused by other tools. To promote a safer woodworking environment, it is crucial to utilize protective gear such as push blocks, make use of tools equipped with safety features, and adopt a mindful approach when carrying out cutting tasks.
Considering and reflecting on your thoughts in the shop is equally significant as wearing safety glasses and ear protection. Seasoned woodworkers often suggest mentally envisioning the cut prior to executing it. Nevertheless, this can be challenging for novice woodworkers. Inexperienced individuals may struggle to determine what needs to be visualized and prepared for, as it is perplexing to imagine unforeseen circumstances.
Although the details may differ depending on the tool, there are some general principles to remember when working that will ensure you can handle emergency situations as they arise, while still keeping all your fingers intact.
Visualize and even simulate in order to have a clear idea of what a successful cut entails.
Before operating a tool, it is important to visualize what a perfect and safe cut should look like. According to Jon Goplerud, the shop captain at Lowell Makes, a maker space in Massachusetts, it is crucial to understand that there are various tool and technique options for every cut you intend to make. Goplerud suggests determining the safest choice for each specific cut. For example, when attempting to create a bevel, should you utilize a router table or a table saw? Similarly, when deciding whether to resaw a thick board into two thinner boards, should you opt for a table saw or a band saw? Ultimately, this decision should be based on the tools available to you, their respective effectiveness, as well as your personal skill level and comfort with using a particular tool.
After choosing the appropriate tool, create a detailed plan for the desired cutting process. If the tool will be routed or moved over the wood, devise a plan to securely fasten the board to the workbench and ensure that clamps do not obstruct the tool’s movement. Determine the method for removing the completed piece from the blade and decide what will be done with any leftover materials. If multiple pieces are being cut, establish in advance which hand will remove the finished board and which hand will retrieve the next one, before reaching the halfway point of the cut.
The purpose behind visualizing the process is to prevent thinking or deciding while you are in the middle of a cut. It is important to already have knowledge of the next step to eliminate any indecision or doubt. Making decisions about what to do next can divert your attention from the crucial task of avoiding contact with the moving blade, and distractions can quickly lead to injuries.
Be aware of the locations that pose a risk.
According to Goplerud, being aware of the potential malfunctions that machines can experience is crucial in minimizing risks. This can be achieved by familiarizing oneself with the specificities of each machine. Goplerud suggests that if one is unfamiliar with a particular machine, they should consult the manual, read relevant literature, watch videos, and ideally, seek guidance from someone with more experience to ensure safe handling.
When using power tools, the most apparent risk is coming into contact with the parts that move. Personally, I rarely allow my hands to come within approximately 4 inches of a rotating saw blade. In situations where I must approach closer, I opt to use a push stick, push block, or even a piece of scrap wood to complete the task instead. It is crucial to remain attentive to the danger at hand. According to Bron Zeage, director of the Secret Underground Laboratory Recovery and Salvage—a furniture and light repair and restoration company located in Louisiana—the essential aspect of operating any power tool safely is to keep your focus on the cutter.
Kickback is another frequent reason for injuries. When a blade is spinning, it has the potential to grasp the wood and fling it at high speeds, thus resulting in harm. Kickback can occur with various tools, including table saws, planers, jointers, routers, circular saws, and miter saws. It is essential for all woodworkers to grasp methods for reducing the risk of kickback and preventing wood from flying in the event of kickback. Additionally, they should also be aware of the safest position to stand in, with the aim of minimizing the chances of being struck by airborne wood, if kickback does occur.
Kickback is most likely to happen on a table saw when the board becomes trapped between the blade and the fence, twists a little, and is propelled towards the user. Thus, it is advisable not to position oneself directly behind the board being cut. Standing to the side reduces the risk of getting hit. Golerud further emphasizes the importance of using boards that have been properly milled. Boards that are twisted or warped are more prone to getting jammed against the blade.
To ensure safety, always use a push block to apply downward pressure on the wood, preventing kickbacks from becoming dangerous projectiles. Push blocks are also essential for router tables and hold-down clamps serve a similar purpose on a stationary board of a miter saw.
It is important to have a plan in place for shutting down power.
Occasionally, situations arise where your cut gets disrupted and becomes disordered. Perhaps you have unintentionally experienced a backlash by using your push block, however, you are now left with a partially cut board that is being sliced by an 88-tooth blade rotating at a speed of 3,000 rpm. It is possible that the board gets stuck, you reach a point where you are unable to push it any further, and if you release it, it will be forcefully propelled across the room. On certain occasions, the only solution is to deactivate the power and cease the ongoing cut.
Always ensure that you are acquainted with the quick process of switching off your machine.
Develop a systematic approach that ingrains in one’s muscle memory.
In order to ensure consistency and efficiency, it is important to establish a standardized workflow for every tool. By integrating consistency into the way you utilize each tool, the process becomes more automatic and instinctive. Consequently, you are able to minimize errors as your body becomes accustomed to the motions. Furthermore, a consistent procedure enables the identification of minor mistakes that can potentially escalate into severe consequences.
More Woodworking Safety Tips
Make sure to put on safety gear.
Woodworking poses multiple risks to personal safety and wellbeing. The excessive noise produced by power tools may have a detrimental impact on your hearing ability, while the possibility of debris entering your eyes exists. Moreover, skin irritation may occur due to stains and varnishes. To prevent harm and maintain good health, it is advisable to consistently wear suitable safety gear during all woodworking tasks. Please contemplate the subsequent suggestions:
- Safety glasses or goggles
- Work and latex gloves
- Face masks
- Steel-toed boots
Make sure to wear suitable clothing.
To prevent accidents, it is recommended to wear fitted clothing that is suitable for woodworking. This will reduce the risk of clothing getting caught in saw blades or other power tools. Additionally, removing dangling jewelry or scarves before starting work is crucial as they can also become entangled in the tools.
Maintain your focus by thinking in a systematic manner, rephrasing the following text while retaining its original meaning. Refrain from introducing additional information and do not omit any existing information. Eliminate any potential distractions.
In order to ensure safety and avoid any harm to yourself or potential damage to a customer’s home, it is imperative to give undivided attention to power tools. Even a brief distraction of a second, such as diverting your gaze from a saw, nail gun, or drill, can lead to serious injury. To minimize the risk, it is advisable to limit distractions like engaging in conversations or listening to music while operating power tools. Before diverting your attention, always complete the task at hand or reach a safe stopping point.
It is important to refrain from consuming alcohol and drugs.
When you are woodworking (or doing any handyman project), it is important to consider that alcohol and drugs can affect your reaction time and your ability to concentrate on your work. This can pose a danger to your safety. Therefore, it is advisable to abstain from consuming alcohol while working and to carefully read the cautions on both prescription and over-the-counter medications. If you are not fully recuperated, it might be necessary to take a break from work instead of risking impaired performance.
Maintain containment of your tools, considering each step carefully.
If a project necessitates frequent tool changes, the temptation to leave them scattered for easy access may arise. Nevertheless, this has the potential to create a hazard, which could result in trips or injuries for yourself, customers, or anyone in close proximity. Storing your tools in a toolbox or keeping them neatly contained within a specific location may assist in minimizing the risk of falls, cuts, and other safety-related dangers.
Utilize a solitary extension cord while following a systematic thought process, without altering or omitting any information.
Using a separate extension cord for each tool is both convenient and potentially dangerous. However, by utilizing a single cord for all tools, it enforces the practice of disconnecting tools when not in use (refer to the previous tip). Additionally, it reduces the number of objects in your workspace that could cause someone to trip and fall.
Use blades and bits that are sharp.
Dull blades and bits have the potential to be hazardous as they can result in your tools exerting more effort and elevate the risk of kickback or binding. On the other hand, sharp blades and bits lead to cleaner and more accurate cuts, which ultimately benefit both you and your customers!
It is necessary to have suitable business insurance.
Accidents can still occur despite having a thorough handyman risk management plan. Business insurance, which includes General Liability coverage, can provide protection against costly claims for injuries or property damage made by customers or other third parties.
By following these and other suggestions for managing the risks of your handyman business, you may be able to expand and enhance your handyman business. Your dedication to safety will be valued by customers, potentially resulting in additional referrals and projects.