It is not fun to be nagged at to be extra cautious in the workshop, there is no greater buzzkill than a serious injury caused by not following safety precautions! To keep woodworking a fun and beneficial activity for your mental and physical health, heed our advice with these various workshop safety implementations. While we won’t be scaring you with photos of shop injuries (you can find plenty of those elsewhere on the internet!), we encourage each creator to follow these 5 workshop safety tips and safe woodworking habits to guarantee a positive woodworking experience:
Tip 1: Wear proper woodworking gear and attire
The workshop isn’t the runway but it is another place you should pay attention to what you’re wearing! Whether you realize it or not, the proper or improper workshop attire can make or break your woodworking experience. When making your next project be mindful of the following pieces of attire:
While woodworking, wood dust exposure is inevitable but there are ways to take precaution against inhalation and better your clean air access. Wearing a dust mask that fits snugly on your face, especially when sanding and creating fine wood dust. You can take filtration a step further by installing a dust-collection or air-filtration system to capture and remove wood dust in your workshop. When a dust mask and air-filtration system are used in unison, it makes for a far healthier workshop experience! Learn more by reading Proposition 65: Wood Dust Warning Explained.
(woodworker John Furniss wears a respirator and face mask to protect against wood dust and kick back while working on F2H Gives Back Campaign wood turned bowl)
Closed toed shoes
Stubbing your toe is never fun but dropping a wooden board or a hammer on your foot because it was convenient to slip into flip-flops is even worse! Protect your toes from bruises, breaks and accidental amputation by wearing closed toe shoes always. To take the protection a step further, we encourage work boots and steel toed boots.
It goes without saying that prolonged exposure to high decibels can be damaging to your ears. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that hearing protection be used for prolonged exposure to sounds at 85 decibels. To put that level in context: electric drills reach 90 decibels, bench top planers can reach 105 to 110 decibels and handheld routers are between 95 and 115 decibels.
Not only can prolonged exposure to high volumes damage your hearing but it can lead to partial hearing loss and complete hearing loss. Prevent this damage by wearing durable ear plugs and earmuffs that guarantee noise cancelling and hearing protection.
(woodworker Char Miller-King sporting eye protection and ear protection while working on her F2H Gives Back Campaign project)
According to OSHA, 90% of work-related eye injuries could have been prevented by putting on a pair of safety glasses. It goes without saying that while woodworking, your eyes are susceptible to all kinds of debris and damaging agents which is why eye protection should always be worn. Whether you choose to wear glasses, goggles or a face shield, protection like this can spare you injury from wood dust, kick back and chip-spewing from power tools.
No loose clothing in the workshop
Loose clothing is a big no-no when working safely in the workshop. Loose clothes can easily get caught in rotating equipment and on various objects. These kinds of catches can put you at slight to severe risk, as clothing caught in rotating machinery can pull you in close to the machinery. For the same reason, long hair should tied back and dangling jewelry should be taken off whenever you are out working in the woodshop.
Tip 2: Keep your workshop clean
A clean shop is a safe shop! With various materials being worked with at any given time, it is important to keep your workshop organized to mitigate any risk. Making your workshop a clean, functional space is vital to a positive woodworking experience. Implement these cleaning methods and habits to keep woodworking a safe activity:
- Cleaning up scrap wood: scrap wood can be hazardous, as piles of scrap wood are a fire hazard and will catch on fire quickly if left susceptible. Recycle scrap wood or get creative and create a scrap wood woodworking project
- Remove wood dust: as mentioned previously, wood dust can pose a severe threat to the overall health and wellness of your woodshop activities. Not only can wood dust be a damaging agent for your lungs and eye, but excess wood dust also poses a fire risk. Protect yourself and remove excess wood dust in your shop by installing an air filtration system and investing in a HEPA shop vacuum cleaner.
- Prevent spontaneous combustion while woodworking: spontaneous combustion can occur in the workshop, especially with an oily rag left behind after applying wood finish. In order to avoid spontaneous combustion in your woodworking shop, hang up the oil rag to dry, ideally outdoors and never allow rags to pile on top of one another. Keep oily rags away from heat sources including space heaters, radiators, water heaters and furnaces.
Tip 3: Read the manual
Whenever you are working with new machinery, it is vital that you do your research and reading. Even if you have worked on the machine and have simply acquired a new model, small changes that you may not be aware of could pose a risk to you as you start your workshop projects. It seems like a no-brainer but reading and understanding the manufacturer’s manual will guarantee you set up and use your equipment properly, making for a safer and better overall experience.
Tip 4: Keep woodworking tools and equipment sharp
We know you’ve been told to sharpen your tools but do you know the true importance of keeping woodworking equipment sharp? To put it simply, the sharper your tools, the less effort is required to make the cut, guaranteeing a cleaner and smoother cut. This means, you do not have to force the tools your working with, potentially putting yourself at risk by doing so. In contrast to dull blades, sharp blades produce less splinters and less kickback, two hazards when working in the woodshop.
Keep your blades sharp by sending them to a professional or sharpening them yourself or replacing your blades regularly.
Tip 5: Use workshop safety tools for assistance
Thankfully, for every piece of dangerous woodworking equipment, there is a woodworking tool that is made to lessen its risk. The following workshop tools are truly a carpenter’s best friend when it comes to safe woodworking practices:
Otherwise known as a push shoe or push block is used when working with stationary routers, jointers and power saws like table saws and bandsaws. A push stick allows the woodworker to push a piece of wood through the machine while it is being cut without the woodworker getting their hands too close to the blade.
(woodworker Austin Hager uses a push stick while creating his Corded Bench)
Custom built sled
Also known as a table saw sled and a cross cut sled, sleds make cutting wood against the grain safer and easier. It is a moveable contraption that fits to the table saw and allows the workpiece to rest against a wooden fence at the front of the sled. This ensures both an even and square cut with each pass and helps the woodworker keep their distance from the sawblade.
Used when working with stationary routers or power saws like table saws and bandsaws, featherboards apply pressure against a workpiece to keep it flat against a machine table or fence without the woodworking getting too close to the blade. Featherboards are also known as fingerboards and are a great workshop accessory to guarantee safety.
Have any other woodshop safety tips that we missed? Comment them down below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org! Happy (and safe) Woodworking!