Every time you turn on any of your power tools you run the risk of catastrophic harm to your body. This sobering fact is always close to mind in the best woodworkers and other power tool using trades people, and it’s part of what keeps them safe. Furthermore, the safest people in the power tool using community know and follow the seven rules of power tool safety outlined for you below.
This article is not intended to replace the importance of reading the safety instructions in the manual that comes with every power tool… Be careful and be safe.
1) You Are The Most Dangerous Power Tool
Power tool users debate at great length about which is actually the most dangerous power tool. There’s widespread agreement however that the number one most dangerous power tool is the operator himself, as there are very few cases of any power tools leaping out to attack randomly. Remember that every time you turn on a power tool it’s you who are responsible for having the same number of fingers when you turn it off. This may seem like an obvious statement but it’s the arrogant, cocky and negligent power tool users who end up forgetting this cardinal truth.
2) All Tools are Equally Dangerous, but Some are More Frequently Harmful
Every tool in your tool box can be dangerous to you if you forget the cardinal rule, but some are definitely more frequent causes of trips to the emergency room. You should exercise caution especially when you pick up that box cutter of yours to break down some boxes. Also, the table saw is widely considered one of the most frequent manglers of fingers, as is the radial arm saw, the shaper and the chain saw.
3) Keep Your Tools Sharp, True, Clean and Running Smooth
Tool maintenance is another key factor in power tool safety. You should study the manual that comes with all of your power tools to learn how and how often you should be sharpening, aligning and cleaning your tool. And always be on the look out for changes in its operating function – listen for funny noises or any jiggles that may develop. These are signs that you need to spend some time getting your manual out and make some adjustments. A calendar in your shop that you can mark with tool maintenance times is a good idea too.
4) Keep Your Work Space Tidy, Well Lit and Distraction Free
Whether you’re working in your basement shop or a job site it’s vital that you keep it clean, well lit and free from distractions. The cleanliness and tidiness means that you won’t be tripping over any bits and pieces that you’ve left around. Get into the habit of cleaning up after yourself as you work and you’ll be well along your way to preventing any major problems with work-site accidents. Strong lighting too is vital to any power tool operation as the lighting is what keeps your fingers away from the blade and shows you exactly where blades are at all times. Get as many watts as possible on your next job and you’ll keep yourself out of the emergency room. Finally, make sure that there’s no music on that could distract you, or cell phones or anything else that pulls your attention away from where it needs to be.
5) Purchase or Make the Appropriate Safety Accessories
Woodworkers have their push sticks, feather boards and push blocks to make sure that they keep their cuts as true as possible while keeping their fingers away from the blade. Many power tools have common safety accessories and it’s up to you to make sure that you’ve learned as much as you can about each one and that you use it effectively to protect yourself from catastrophic injury.
6) Keep a First Aid Kit Handy
In addition to the normal stuff like bandages and peroxide you’re going to want to keep a couple of extra items handy that have a grizzly importance. Keep a plastic garbage bag handy for transporting any severed limbs with you to the hospital. Further, a hand mirror is vital for checking on your face in the case of a facial injury. Have these items available and hope that you never have to use them.
7) Always Trust Your Instincts
Most power tool operators report a little twinge of conscience right before they get hurt on a power tool. A little voice or feeling that says “hm… this isn’t safe.” If you get that feeling then stop what ever you’re doing right away. Further, it’s often when people try old jobs in new ways – that they just make up on the spot without thinking through – that they get hurt too. So pay attention to that little voice inside of you and you’ll be much more likely to stay safe!
Remember – it’s up to you to keep yourself safe when using power tools. Always read the manuals and remember the seven rules of power tool safety! And be sure to read ToolCrib’s Ultimate Guide to the Top Ten Most Dangerous Woodworking Power Tools.