Workshop Safety

What is workshop safety

Safety in the workshop... what exactly does that mean? Does that mean you are unsafe, or prone to accident? Does it mean your shop is unsafe, and prone to accident?

The baseline answer to those two questions is you should do something about those problems you are concerned with and fix them. If you have forseeable problems, fix them before they cause an accident. Because they will, and probably when you least expect it.

So your shop is safe... why should you use any safety gear? A common mentality is that I'm a safe person, and my shop is a safe place to be, why do I need to wear safety gear? The entire reason for safety gear and practices in the shop is for those things which happen unexpectedly. Those things which you can not predict and compensate for.

Like what you ask? How about a piece of a a shattered wood knot bouncing off 3 protective surfaces to hit you in the face? Sure the guards are up, ultra safe, but the unexpected can still occur.

If you feel unsafe about something, that is a powerful hint you are giving to yourself. Stop right then don't pass go, don't collect $200, and don't do the one last time. That one last time could be the one that sees your thumb lying next to the tablesaw. A person's mind has some powerful intution, rely on it.

Before going on to be more specific, lets look at some of the things we want to protect:

Philosophy of Safety

People have appendages and other components they hold near and dear. There is a certain amount of redundancy in our bodies systems. However, the fallback on using those often sucks. Binocular vision with depth perception is way better than vision from a single eye. A thumb makes grasping things easy ... lacking one is most frustrating. Hearing injuries tend to catch up to you later in your life ... and they make themselves heard every minute from then on.

Of all the safety items, I think than the phrase Norm Abrams says before every episode of New Yankee Workshop hits it right on the head:

There is no more important thing than these -- Safety Glasses

There are some important things to know about safety gear:

  1. Safety gear must be used reliably.
  2. Safety gear must be easily accessible and ubiquitous.
  3. Safety gear must be a pleasure to use.
  4. Safety gear must be in good condition.

The easiest way to use safety gear in your shop is to use it reliably. Make the safety gear the first thing you touch when entering your shop. Make it the last thing that comes off when you leave the shop. Use it whenever you are in your shop, even if you aren't planning on doing anything. Safety glasses on when you enter the shop, and off when you leave. I can not stress that more strongly -- make it an ingrained habit to have those glasses on in the shop. Then think about wearing them for other projects when you get some tools from the shop. One day you may find yourself wearing them while eating lunch out of the shop -- way better than not having them one when you need them.

Safety gear must be easily accessible and ubiquitous If your safety gear isn't out and easy to use, you will tend not to use it. Don't make it a big deal to use your safety gear. Have it near to hand to areas where you might need it. Have special places to put your safety gear so it is always easily visible and available for immediate use. Better yet, keep safety gear in multiple places in your shop, such as by individual tools and machines. If there is always safety gear within reach, it will be easy to use, and you will use it. Make sure there is safety gear for shop visitors to use too.

Safety gear must be a pleasure to use. If it isn't you won't use it because it is a pain to use. Safety glasses which distort your vision or fog up too easily won't be used. A tablesaw splitter which takes 10 minutes to install isn't one that will be used much. If you want to listen to the radio when you work, get some comfortable hearing protectors with a built-in radio. It is well worth the time to find safety gear that you like to use. THe combined cost of a pair of good safety glasses, a high quality hearing protector, and even a vapor mask is inexpensive compared to a single trip to urgent care or the emergency room. Ultimately you'll have more time and money to spend in the shop too!

You need to maintain your safety gear in good working order. If it isn't it may be its own safety hazard. If your safety glasses are crazing, or cracking, don't try to save them. Just throw them away and grab another pair from the safety equipment bin. If they are dirty, clean them so you can see clearly. A microfiber cloth cleans those things almost as good as new, and costs less than a pair of safety glasses. If the splitter on your saw isn't aligned with the blade, take the time to slign it, or order a replacment if it is too bent to fix. Keep spare safety equipment around for when something fails, instead of continuing on with out the safety gear. Oh, yeah, and put the guards back on your tools after you adjust them!

Personal Safety Gear

Now I'll mention some of the personal safety gear, and why you want to have it. This is really obvious, but sometimes you want to think of things which perhaps you don't consider often enough ...

Shop Safety Gear

Examples of how I setup my shop

RANDOM THINGS NOTHING REALLY YET I'll give you some idea of how I do this in my shop:

In my shop, I have safety glasses and hearing protectors right on my tablesaw. If I want to use the tool, just for a moment, in and out of the shop... that gear is sitting right there. It is the easiest thing in the world to put it on for a second, run the saw, turn it off again. Same

Examples of Bad things which happened

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Last Modified: Wed Apr 4 00:06:39 CDT 2007
Bolo (Josef Burger) <>