Woodworking Shop Safety Tips

Woodworking is an enjoyable and productive hobby, but it’s absolutely essential to practice it safely. Most of us know someone who lost part of a finger or perhaps much worse while operating woodworking power tools.

Always practice common sense whenever working with power tools. And, when working in the woodshop, follow these ten key safety tips, which you may want to print and post on your woodshop wall.

  1. Wear safety equipment. It may not be glamorous or comfortable, but safety equipment is absolutely essential. Safety glasses should be worn at all times when in the woodshop. This is true even when you are not actively working with power tools. Always wear safety glasses! Hearing protection may also necessary when working with high-volume tools such as routers. Dust masks and face shields can help to protect your lungs, particularly if your woodworking shop does not have a dust collector.
  2. Dress safely. Your clothes should not be loose enough to get caught in your equipment. Remove any loose or hanging jewelry and watches. Make sure that your clothing is sturdy enough to protect your body from any flying debris such as woodchips. And never wear sandals in the woodshop.
  3. Stay organized and focused. When using power tools, exercise some good old fashioned common sense. Clutter is a disaster waiting to happen, so keep your work area clean and free of debris that could cause an accident. Never work in the woodworking shop after consuming medication or alcohol. If you’re interrupted in the middle of a project, make sure to reach a safe stopping point before moving on to other things, and always secure the shop if you must leave it.
  4. Check your power cords. Check all cords for damage or fraying (this is particularly important when using older machinery such as vintage table saws). Never use a power tool with a damaged or ungrounded cord. You might also consider limiting yourself to one extension cord for your workshop, which will require you to unplug each piece of equipment before moving on to the next stage of your project.
  5. Before cutting, check for metal. Examine the wood for any metal objects such as nails, staples, or screws before beginning your project, and again immediately before making the first cut. Not only could these items cause serious injury through saw kickback, but they can also damage your equipment.
  6. Never use a dull power tool. Dull saw blades or drill bits can cause binding or kickback and present a potential hazard. They also can result in sloppy work, so it is best to replace accessories promptly and inspect them for wear or damage before each use.
  7. Check all guards. All of the guards and anti-kickback devices should be in working order. Note that some older equipment, such as the vintage table saws referred to above, may not have sufficient guards.
  8. Disconnect the power before changing the blade. When changing miter saw blades, band saw blades, etc., completely disconnect the power. This insures that an accidental bump won’t turn the machine on.
  9. Let the blade stop completely. Before taking any action with a power tool, let the blade (or drill bit, etc.) stop completely. Take this precaution even if your action doesn’t directly involve the blade. Slow-moving blades can still cause injury, and it only takes a small slip to come into contact with one.
  10. Use a pushstick. Don’t reach over the blade (in the case of table or miter saws) or past it (in the case of band saw blades) to collect waste. Use a pushstick instead. Never let your hands get close enough to the blade for an accident to happen, even if the power is off.

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