Years ago I worked for a large, multi-national manufacturing firm with over 60,000 employees. As an operations manager in one of the divisions, I was held responsible for safety so I took it seriously. But it never really hit home until a safety meeting in the late 90’s.
We were preparing to build a new warehouse and the company required that everyone who would be involved in the project attend a mandatory safety meeting. I assumed I knew what it would be about, but the safety manager who led the meeting really got my attention. He began the meeting by saying “Last year we killed three people. We are not going to kill anyone this year.”
I knew there had been three fatal accidents in the firm the previous year, but saying it that way really got my attention. That is really taking personal responsibility for safety. Working around your home and in your workshop involves potentially hazardous tools. Are you taking that responsibility seriously?
It has everything to do with attitude. In my experience managing safety programs, I never saw an incident that couldn’t have been prevented. Usually the cause is carelessness, inattention or haste. You must put safety first – ahead of everything else, including deadlines and budgets.
Here is a brief workshop checklist to consider:
1. Wear safety glasses or a face shield. They may be annoying but they beat a trip to the ER. Get good, comfortable safety glasses so you will wear them.
2. Protect your hearing. Use ear plugs or a headset. Power tool decibel levels can do long-term damage.
3. Control the space. Prepare for unexpected guests. A distraction in the middle of using a power tool is a recipe for disaster.
4. Control your attitude. Never work with power tools when you are angry or upset. If you have an argument with a tool you will lose every time.
5. Be wary using chemicals. Intoxicating substances and woodworking don’t mix. And beware the dangerous side-effects of chemicals like glues and solvents. Either is a recipe for disaster.
6. Control dust. Invest in appropriate vacuum and filter equipment and use it. Dust is a serious long-term health issue.
7. Wear appropriate clothing. Avoid loose-fitting clothing and dangling jewelry – it can get entangled in a saw blade or cutting head.
8. Disconnect the power. Always disconnect the power to any tool before servicing it. Don’t depend on the switch!
9. Keep your work area clean. Organize and clean on a daily basis. And bonus – you will find your projects go faster.
10. Use sharp tools. A dull cutting tool is a dangerous tool. If it has to work harder it will be more likely to kick-back, slip or bind. Bonus: sharp tools produce cleaner cuts.
Your brain is the most powerful tool in your shop. Think before you start; visualize yourself doing the job safely before you begin.
Make a New Year’s resolution not to hurt anyone, including yourself, this year.