Safety Rules for Your Woodshop

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Woodworking is a fascinating industry, and can be a very enjoyable vocation or avocation. But like most businesses or hobbies there are certain rules that must be followed to insure ones enjoyment and safety. To avoid accidents, safety must be paramount in one’s mind at all times when working with tools or equipment. To achieve maximum safety one must also realize that in a woodworking setting all hand tools, portable power equipment, and woodworking machines have a specific use. Also, each piece of equipment has its own special hazards if not used properly. One must become very familiar with their use and maintenance in order to insure personal safety, gain maximum enjoyment, and produce useful projects that one can be proud of.

The following rules are quite comprehensive, but they are not intended to be totally inclusive. One must always use common sense when working. If you  do not feel right about a particular “set up”, or are overly concerned about your safety while operating a piece of equipment, it is best not proceed until further knowledge is obtained. Accidents happen, even to the most knowledgeable and safety conscience persons, but If you will read, understand, and follow the safety procedures outlined, the possibility of accidents will be greatly minimized. These comments are not meant to elicit fear, but are meant to help insure a healthy respect for all equipment used, and eliminate accidents.

General Woodworking and Woodshop Safety Rules: (See Safety by Machine and Tool Type)

  1. Only use woodworking machines and tools you have knowledge of or have been trained to use.
  2. Always read and understand the owner’s manual prior to using a tool or piece of equipment.
  3. Always wear safety equipment such as goggles, face shields, dust masks, and hearing protection appropriate for the type of tool or equipment being used.
  4. Dress appropriately. Do not wear gloves, ties, scarves, loose fitting clothing or jewelry around moving equipment.  Also, do not wear sandals, open toed shoes, or go barefoot in the shop. Only wear gloves temporarily when handling or stacking rough lumber for storage purposes.
  5. Avoid distractions at all times. Do not listen to a radio. If you must converse with another person, first turn off the equipment you are using.
  6. Keep the working area and floor clean and free of wood scraps, clutter, oil spills, etc. Always use a brush to clean off sawdust or wood scraps from the machine or work area being used.
  7. Make sure the safety guards are in position and operating properly for all equipment used.
  8. Do not stand in water or use any electrical equipment in the rain or any inclement weather.
  9. Be sure all equipment is properly grounded before use.
  10. Always use the correct tools and equipment for the job. Never use a tool or attachment on a machine for which it was not designed.
  11. Always check stock for nails, screws, staples, loose knots or other defects before using.
  12. Before plugging in a machine, make sure the switch is in the off position. Also make sure the on/off switch is within a convenient reach.
  13. Keep the power cords away from equipment while operating. Also, electrical cords should not be strung across the floor to prevent tripping. If possible, install power cords or wiring overhead or under the floor. If an extension cord must be used, be sure that it has the correct wire size and has a ground plug.
  14. Concentrate on the work at hand at all times. Do not day dream and keep your hands and fingers at a safe distance from blades and any rotating parts while working.
  15.  Always use a push stick to push the stock into the cutting area whenever possible.
  16. Always clamp stock securely when cutting, sanding or drilling.
  17. Never make an adjustment with the power on. If possible unplug the machine when changing blades, bits, etc.
  18. Make sure all blades, bits, drills, etc. are sharp and in good working condition before using.
  19. Lighting is important. Clearly reading scales and measuring devices, plus visualizing blades, bits, drills, and the cut lines on wood stock is imperative.
  20. Do not use a machine until it is running at full speed.
  21. Never walk away from a machine while it is still running. Turn off the power and wait until it has come to a full stop.
  22. If a machine does not sound right, there are unusual smells emitted, or smoke is visible, turn the machine off immediately and check for the problem before reusing.
  23. Avoid unsafe operations where a sudden slip could cause your hand to move into a blade or cutting tool.
  24. Make sure the floor space is clean and clear of debris or spills that could cause an accident.
  25. If possible, do not stand directly behind any stock being cut, planed, or jointed. In the event of a kick-back, serious injury could result.
  26. Keep all machines, equipment, and tools clean, oiled, sharpened, and in good repair.
  27. Keep used oily and stained rags in a covered metal container. This will help prevent spontaneous combustion.
  28. Keep an ABC class fire extinguisher in a convenient location. The ABC class will extinguish all classes of fires.
  29. Discard or sharpen dull blades, cutters, chisels, drill bits, lathe tools, etc. Dull tools may not provide the quality of work desired and could result in accidents.
  30. Keep lumber stored in a safe and dry place. Lumber should never be stored near equipment or working areas.
  31. Use a wooden box to store cut-off material, or small stock that could be used for future projects.
  32. If possible, us an exhaust ventilation system to remove sawdust and chips from the machines.
  33. Never us drugs, alcohol, or medication that would impair vision or judgment in a woodshop environment.

Woodshop Safety By Machine and Tool:

Power Machines:

Portable Power Equipment:

Internet References:
    1. Maxey Wood Shop Safety Rules 

    2. Top Ten Woodworking Safety Rules Every Woodworker Should Know

    3. Woodshop Safety-Andrews University

    4. Woodshop Safety Manual - University of Washington

Book Reference:
     1. Cabinetmaking and Millwork, 1967 Edution, By John L. Feirer