Woodworking should be enjoyable, inspiring and most importantly safe. Follow these fundamental guidelines for maintaining workshop safety and ensure everyone taking part in their next project feels confident and safe.
1. Maintain a clean work area
Before starting any project it’s important to look at the area you’re going to be working in. Ensure the workspace and floor are clean and free of obstacles and you’ll reduce the likelihood of slips, trips and falls which are the most common form of injury. Make sure to clean up any spillages, ensure cables are out of the way and the floor coverings are suitable for the work. Use safety matting where necessary. Vacuum rather than sweep up dusts and never use an airline duster to clean machinery.
For more information, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has a useful guide on preventing slips and trips at work.
2. Now now children pay attention
There was a good reason your teacher used to say this and in the workshop it’s particularly important. Distractions are a major cause of accidents and a lack of focus can lead to negligence. It’s easy to get distracted but working with tools and machinery needs your constant attention.
3. Your own personal bodyguard
Firstly wherever possible the hazard should be controlled at source. So if this is dust, use suitable extraction for the type of equipment you’re working with. Personal Protective Equipment should always be the next stage of protection and is invaluable for protecting against different hazards. Impact protective glasses should be worn at all times even when using hand tools. You never know when chippings can come flying, especially if there is more than one person working in the same area. Even if you’re not working on something that necessitates wearing protective glasses, keep them on just in case.
Hearing protection is another one to be mindful of as damage to your hearing isn’t necessarily instant and can develop over time. When noise levels reach 80 decibels or you need to shout at someone to make them hear you it’s advisable to wear hearing protection. The point to remember is that ear defenders or plugs should reduce the noise but not eliminate it completely. You still want to be able to hear if someone needs to warn you about a potential danger.
4. Fashion conscious
Clothing in the workshop takes on a slightly different meaning. Everyone wants to look cool but you’re not going to be able to follow the latest trends on the shop floor. Loose fitting clothing such as hoodies with drawstrings as well as jewellery are more likely to get caught in machinery so it’s advisable to avoid wearing these. Also remember to keep long hair tied back. Smocks may look different but they’re a practical solution especially for long periods at the lathe.
5. Unplug before changing blades, bits and cutters
This is a simple rule but a golden one. Always disconnect the power when changing accessories whether that’s at the mains or removing the battery in cordless tools. People are always in a rush to get on with the job but develop the habit of ensuring there’s no power coming into the tool when switching blades and you’ll be much safer.
6. Sharper is actually better
If blades and cutting tools are well sharpened they will cut more easily which reduces the chances of the tool catching and causing kick back.
7. Mind the machinery
Any guard on a machine should be properly fitted and in good working order. Also when moving an item close to the blade push sticks are a good way of keeping fingers clear of fast spinning objects. Stepping up to the router table also has it’s own complexities. When working with narrow pieces of wood combine these with a coping sled and you have a secure method of holding the workpiece that keeps your fingers well clear. Always keep your hand at least one handspan away from power driven cutting blades.
8. Check for metal
Before performing any sort of cutting, routing or planing be sure to inspect the wood. Any buried metal objects such as nails, staples and screws will cause havoc but proper inspection will prevent any mishaps.
Be on the safe side
Whenever possible if you’re new to woodworking and building your practical knowledge of the tools, supervision should be on a one to one basis. If you want to find out more about how to use particular tools or machines you could also check out one of our skill centre courses.
Learning any new skill should be fun but by applying these guidelines and always being conscious about workshop safety they will soon become a habit so you can enjoy woodworking for years to come.