Friday, November 14, 2008

Shop Safety II

In my last post I talked about removing safety hazards from under foot. Today I'd like to address two other elements of shop safety: Light and sound.

Adequate lighting is critical to doing good work under any circumstances. Many shops, especially smaller ones have a tendency to skimp on lighting. They'll wire up a couple of banks of florescent tubes and call it fine and dandy. Nope.

Anything (and I mean anything) that leads to unnecessary fatigue is a safety hazard and eyestrain is a major culprit. Always make sure that your work area is well lit and have extra lighting such as adjustable drawing table lights or high intensity reading lamps available. Those extra photons can save you from nasty cuts or (even worse) turning out inferior work. Examine your work area and eliminate the shadows as much as possible.

Now that we've saved our eyesight lets protect our ears. Power tools are, for the most part, loud; especially when they are actively engaged. A good table saw has a nice hum to it until it starts ripping an oak plank and then the decibels climb. If you're working in a small shop, that noise is bouncing off the walls with increased intensity and is mounting a major assault on your ears...the ears you rely on to hear your baby laugh, your spouse whisper sweet nothings, or that evil thing that is sneaking up on you.

I keep ear plugs in my pocket at all times. Before I plug in any tool, I plug my ears. Hearing damage is cumulative. It adds up. Ripping one sheet of plywood without adequate hearing protection will not cause you to go deaf. You will just be one more sheet of plywood deafer. Every time you fire up a power tool or subject your ears to any other type of loud noise you are decreasing your ability to hear and hastening the day when someone you love says: "MAYBE YOU SHOULD THINK ABOUT GETTING A HEARING AID."

Hearing aids are expensive. Ear plugs are cheap. Think about it.

I'll get back to the subject of safety in future posts. That's all for now.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Shop Safety

Every shop should have a first aid kit. Ideally it should never have to be used but this is not an ideal world and where work is being done bandages will be needed, splinters will have to be removed and ointment applied. In all my years in the trades there have been few jobs where I did not spill at least a few drops of blood as sacrifice to the gods of construction.

In large commercial shops (i.e.: those with huge insurance premiums) safety is a high priority issue. Supervisors will keep an eagle eye out for violations. Weekly meetings will be held and anyone who screws up while violating the rules will be in for some serious S.H.I.T. (Special High Intensity Training) at the very least.

But what about the smaller shop and, in particular, the home work shop; is safety less of an issue there. No.

True, you may not have the big equipment that's just waiting to grab you and turn you into chopped pork but there are things you must be aware of to avoid ruining your day or your life.

Let's start at ground level. What's under foot? Are you constantly tripping over extension cords or air hoses? Is that pile of scrap around the miter or table saw causing you grief? How many times have you stepped on the male ends of your power tools and bent the leads?

I think you see where I'm going with this. If at all possible get it out from under foot. Look at your power set up and see if another outlet or two (or six) might make your life easier (and help preserve the plugs of you tools). If your air compressor is a large part of your day consider flying your air hoses over head. Those coiled hoses are a colossal P.I.T.A (Pain In The Aft) on the ground but can be useful coming down from above. And while I've often found it handy to have a few pieces of scrap lying around within reach, that "few pieces" can become clutter and a nuisance in short order.

To sum up, take a good look at your shop. Take note of what generates damage or profanity and take the steps necessary to make your life better...and safer.

That's all for now. I'm not done with this subject.