Staying safe is important when working with any tools, but it’s especially important for woodworkers. While you can suffer severe injuries with any tool, woodworking injuries have an increased chance of injuring your hands, which can obviously severely affect your ability to work on wood in the future.
You probably know a lot of the basics of safety already, but some things bear repeating. Here are a few things to keep in mind to stay safe while working with wood, both while working by hand and when using powered equipment.
Know Your Safety Equipment
You already know that you should wear safety goggles when working with wood, but what else? What safety equipment is needed for hand working wood as opposed to using a router or lathe? If you think that goggles are the only equipment you need, you might be setting yourself up for an injury.
Eye, hand and arm protection are very important – and hearing protection is also recommended if you’re using loud powered equipment. Latex gloves or other non-absorbent hand protection should be worn if you’re dealing with strong finishes or stripping chemicals.
Don’t forget a respirator or facemask if you’re working with harsh chemicals, too. You should also make sure that you don’t wear loose-fitting clothes; everything you wear should be relatively form fitting and shouldn’t have any dangly bits hanging off that could get caught up in your equipment.
Check the Wood
Don’t ever work in a hurry: you may be tempted to get right to work without properly looking over the wood that you’re working with. In most cases this isn’t that big of a deal, but if there’s a nail, screw or other hazard in the wood that you don’t see, it could mean trouble. Depending on the tools you’re using, hitting a nail or other object could pull the blade in dangerous directions or possibly even send a piece of the nail flying through the air.
Keep it Sharp
Wood can be hard on blades, bits and other woodworking tools. It’s tempting to keep using the same blades for as long as possible to get the most for your money. That’s perfectly fine provided you’re willing to put forth the effort to sharpen the blades.
If your equipment doesn’t have sharp blades, it’s more likely to kick back or bind up while you’re using it because it simply can’t cut into the wood as well as it should. Either change your blades as needed or sharpen them. Don’t forget to clean them up to remove pitch and other buildup that can prematurely make them dull.
Don’t Reach Over the Blade
You’d think that this one was common sense, but emergency rooms see plenty of traffic from people who didn’t think and reached over an active blade to stabilize a piece of wood or grab a piece that’s been cut off. Keep a piece of scrap or some other item like a cut-off broom handle to knock your waste out of the way while the blade is spinning.
It may take a little bit of practice to get used to using a tool to deal with your cut wood, but once you get used to it you’ll be much safer. If you have to reach over the blade for something, be patient and wait for it to stop moving completely before reaching across.
Disconnect the Power Before Maintenance
Here’s another one that you would think is common sense. Too many people don’t bother disconnecting the power on saws and other large pieces of equipment before they begin changing blades or performing other maintenance.
This is a dangerous habit.
All it takes is one slip to engage the tool and potentially cause yourself a severe injury. Some woodworkers even go so far as to only use a single extension cord in their shop so that they have to unplug each piece of equipment before they can use a different one. This sets up a great habit that can prevent maintenance-time injuries: always unplug your equipment when you’re done with it.
Keep Your Focus
A number of woodworking injuries are caused by simply losing track of what you’re doing. When you’re working on a project, make sure you’re using your chisels and other tools properly and that you’re using clamps as needed to prevent hand injuries.
You should be sober, well rested and focused on the task at hand. Keep your area free from distractions that might draw your eyes away from what you’re doing at a vital moment. This is your livelihood – don’t risk it to find out who won the game or what movie’s coming on the TV later.