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Woodworker's Safety Week 2010

It's Safety Week 2010 for Woodworkers - a good time to consider some of your own shop safety practices and think about what you might improve. One of our customers, Howard Van Valzah, contributed this great safety tip that could be valuable to some of you. We've also included some links below to other blogs that are also 'celebrating' safety week with links and tips that could help improve your workshop safety.

Got tips of your own? Share them in the comments!
Enjoy and be safe!

A Two Minute Safety Tip
by Howard Van Valzah

safetytip1.jpg As a veteran woodworker age 80 I have finally learned something I should have learned many years ago. Recently it became obvious to me that the majority of my woodworking injuries were on my left hand. The worst one was on my left thumb that wandered by itself into a table saw blade. Stitches didn't work so a skin graft was needed to complete the cure. That happened four years ago.

Recently I have been working on some large projects and observed on completion that I had three band aids on my left hand. Nothing major like the thumb incident, but they were scratches, bangs, and nicks. And then the realization came that this seems to happen after every major project, and to a lesser extent on smaller jobs. Then I looked closely at the way my hands get work done. In most cases I found that my right hand is directing work to be done. That would make you think that the right hand might be injured more frequently. Further study showed that my left hand was often used to steady or hold the work piece putting it right in line to be struck by a slipped tool or anything else that might go wrong. The right hand guiding the tool was perfectly safe. (The hand eye coordination required to get the work performed was the responsibility of the right hand. The left hand was used in support but the operator's eye was concentrating on the performance of the right hand, leaving the left hand unattended.)

safetytip2.jpg

Now that I knew that, I began to be more conscious of the left hand, but still got nicks, dings, and scratches on it. It quickly became clear that it wasn't enough to just be aware of the problem and hope I could correct it. Just about that time I purchased a pair of bright yellow cut-resistant Kevlar gloves from Highland Woodworking. I didn't purchase them for use with power tools - I bought them with the idea of using them when I occasionally have to hand carve a piece of work. Seeing them sitting beside the workbench one day I decided to try something. I put one on my left hand (they are reversible) with the thought that the bright yellow color might alert me to be cautious, as does the yellow light on a traffic signal. It seems to be working because I have not yet had a scratch or ding on my left hand, but I did bang it hard once, but no blood, just a severe "ouchie". I would encourage others to wear a "yellow caution light" on their left hand as a reminder that it is an accident waiting to happen.

A couple of safety links for you
The Wood Whisperer
Matts Basement Workshop

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Comments

It is amazing how we can go a long time, even years without noticing a simple pattern. I have never noticed the left hand issue until I took a moment to compare scars. Looks like you're on to something. I guess we all just need to stop and take note once in a while!

Thanks for the note, Aluminum Extrusions. You are right - it is important to take note every so often. Keep us informed if you have any other safety tips - we love to hear 'em!

Excellent tip!! Thank you sir.

Wow - but sorry.
My Dad told me one horror story (tablesaw), and a coworker showed me another (planer), so I always take an extra three to five seconds, visualize the cut, feel the cut and guide and weight of the wood, and where my hands will be all through the operation. I haven't had a serious ding in years. The odd splinter and scratch, but nothing - and I mean nothing - serious. I may work slower than most, but I work steadier and surer. Here's hoping the discipline stays good and valuable.

It's great that you bring something so small to our attention. When really you take a good look at your hands, and you go WOW! Now you have brought something to my attention that is not so small. Thanks for paying a little more attention to something we should all do more often.

Good idea. I'm always dinging my left hand, so I'll try it. One caveat: Never wear gloves when using a table saw, or most any power tool.

I'm not sure this is a good idea for power tool use. The picture shows a long sleeve shirt and a loose fitting glove. To me this is itself a safety hazard and could get caught on a blade, belt, or gear.

Best to not have anything on the hands, no jewelry, no watches, no gloves, and no long sleeves.

For hand tools, I say go for it.

As a physician who has treated occupational injuries for years, I noted the left-hand-injury pattern early in my career. In most right handed people, the tool is held in the right hand with the sharp or heavy end pointed away. The left hand is holding the workpiece or nail and ends up being the right hand's victim when the tool goes off course. Utility knives seem to be the biggest offender.

I'm left handed and still bang up my left hand. The reason? It's always at the top of the broom handle when I sweep my shop floor. That hand runs into everything that is shoulder level and just beyond my peripheral vision.

As for the glove and saw safety, I use a glove much of the time because my hands are dry. Contrary to what others think, I believe a glove controls slippage thus safer than a bare/dry hand slipping into a blade. However, I would recommend a tighter fitting and more slip resistant glove than the one Howard shows in the picture.

Also, for ripping, I always stand with the saw fence between me and the blade - yeah, I kind of hide behind the fence. I only use my left hand to push anything through and if less than 12" between the blade and fence, I use a push stick or my GRR-Ripper block. But my best "old friend" is a Rip-Strate - I use it 95 percent of the time. Push the workpiece in halfway, walk around the saw, pull the workpiece out - nothing gets near the blade. No other hold-down device is worth the material its made from - too bad they are not made anymore.

I've been woodworking for 30 years now with out a scratch . . . . . . . if it weren't for that damn broom.

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