Woodworking has risks, but I’ve learned that we can make our crafting journey safe and enjoyable with the proper precautions. We all know the ropes, but I’ve picked up some safety pointers from seasoned woodworkers that can make a difference. Nobody wants an unexpected trip to the hospital or extra bills. So, let’s dive into these friendly tips and keep our passion for woodworking injury-free!
Eleven Woodworking Safety Rules and Tips
1. Examine and Understand the Equipment You Will Use
Underestimating the capability and power of the equipment you’re using is one of the most common errors that result in accidents. Not understanding the cutting tools or using the wrong tool for your project makes it very difficult to carry out safety procedures.
It won’t matter how safe you are if you are using your table saw saw blade meant for plastics to cut metal. I had to learn it the hard way, but know what your power tools are used for and how to operate them safely.
2. Always Have an Emergency Contact and Plan
It’s important to be prepared for unforeseen circumstances. While many woodworkers overlook the need for an emergency plan, I highly recommend having one in place. Although it may be challenging to anticipate every possible danger, having an emergency contact person and a plan in case of emergencies is a smart precautionary measure.
Don’t work on something if you’re alone at the workshop or work site. Always keep your mobile phone close to you just in case you need to call for help.
3. Wear Safety Shield, Mask, Glasses, and Hearing Protection
Safety equipment such as safety glasses and gloves are some of the most important accessories to have when working a power tool. A running blade will churn up a lot of wood dust, which is why it’s vital to wear safety glasses and similar eye protection.
The gloves will keep your fingers safe from sharp blades, and so will a blade guard. I also say it’s a good idea to wear a dust mask or reliable respirator for woodworking to prevent inhalation of dust particles, especially if you don’t have a very effective shop vac.
I also suggests ear protection for woodworking projects that require loud equipment such as a chainsaw.
It’s imperative to keep your safety gear on even when you’re not operating a large machine. Surface planers and applying finishes can also pose some hazards. I suggest wearing latex gloves if you need to have more freedom of movement.
4. Wear Appropriate Clothing
Even the clothes you wear could compromise your safety in a workshop. Loose clothing is a big mistake because they can get snagged on spinning blades, as could long hair and even accessories such as necklaces and dangling bracelets. The right clothes for the job is key. Also, you may want to consider wearing quality apron for woodworking, like the CharGuy Premium Canvas Apron.
Wear clothes that are form-fitting but still comfortable because you don’t want clothing that’s too tight it will restrict your movement.
It’s also crucial to don the proper footwear. Making sure the soles of your shoes are non-slip has been an important finding. Use common sense and pick durable and sturdy work boots or other reliable close-toed shoes.
5. Ensure Sufficient Lighting in Your Shop
Your wood shop should have plenty of natural lighting and enough artificial lights in place when the sun goes down. Good lighting is the key to visibility to avoid accidents. When you’re commencing with tasks such as blade changes or removing waste, you don’t want to accidentally trip over a cable because you couldn’t see clearly.
Where you place the light is also key. Switching on the overhead lights might not prove to be as helpful as an LED light directly on your tool. Wherever you place the light, make sure no shadows are cast over your line of sight.
6. Ensure Proper Dust Control and Room Ventilation
Keeping your wood shop ventilated is imperative. I have really found a difference between just one open window and a workshop that has adequate airflow. The machines will produce a lot of dust when the blade makes contact with the wood. It’s not enough to protect your body, don’t forget about your lungs. A heavy-duty dust collection system and ample ventilation will make sure your lungs are not compromised.
Aside from damaging your lungs, it is also a fire hazard because sawdust can be used to start a fire. All it takes is one spark from the blade to set the whole shop on fire.
7. Sharpen Blades and Bits
If you spend any time in kitchen cooking, then you will know the logic behind what I am going to say next. The sharper the blades and bits are, the safer it is, similar to knives. A sharp blade will leave a clean cut with no cut offs or splinters that can penetrate your skin. A sharp blade is also more exact and surgical with its performance.
A drill bit or router bit needs to be sharp and maintained because dull bits can jam and become a safety hazard. I say carbide blades are among the best for longevity.
It’s my expert advice to invest in higher quality pieces made from more durable materials so you won’t need to sharpen the components as often. Aside from the reduced sharpening, these blades and bits will also last longer.
8. Use a Single Extension Cord
We know it can be difficult to adhere to this next rule, especially when you most likely have multiple power tools. However, you should really only have one heavy-duty extension cord to minimize tripping hazards . Consolidating all the cables into one location instead of being plugged into multiple power sources will also make your shop a safer environment.
9. Turn Off Power During Blade Change
This one may seem like common sense, but I am often surprised by how many people forget to disconnect power or switch off the power source before changing blades. I always stress that the only way to do blade changes safely is to do it when the woodworking tool is off.
Sometimes your blade might stall before the blade change, and I advise you never to try to remove the stalled blade before you switch off the machine.
10. Work Against the Cutter
11. Examine Wood for Nails and Other Metal
Sometimes you get pieces of 5/4 lumber that have nails embedded or other foreign objects, especially in recycled pieces. Nails are some of the most dangerous things and if you are not aware of this, your blade can catch on these pieces. Sometimes the nails are not obvious to the naked eye, but a metal detector will locate them easily.
Important Dos and Don’ts
Don’t Leave Machines Unsupervised
I say many people, beginners or professionals alike, will forget to power down their tools or leave a running blade unsupervised. You never know who may not realize the power tools are still running and accidentally get nicked. Accidental contact with a blade is easier than you think, so always remember to wait until the blade has stopped moving before you leave.
Do Take Breaks
When you are tired, you tend to lose focus and concentration, which can result in many dangers and injuries in the workplace. Working for long hours is taxing, and everyone deserves a break . Take some time away from the wood piece and the tool, it can better protect you and those around you if you are 100% engaged.
Don’t Work Under the Influence of Alcohol
It may seem like common sense, but I have seen people work with a beer in hand. It may be relaxing to work with a cold one on a hot summer day, but it’s very dangerous. You never know how much the alcohol will affect you, and sometimes it hits you all at once.
Alcohol is an inhibitor and can greatly reduce your coordination. For this reason, I recommend not working under the influence of alcohol and any mind-altering substance around these heavy-duty machines.
Do Eliminate Distractions in the Workshop
Woodworking safety can be compromised with distractions in your workshop. My construction team says to minimize distractions at all costs. Not only can sudden distractions cause accidents, but having something like a TV in the shop can take your attention away from what’s at hand.
Importance of Observing Woodworking Safety Guidelines
I also follow general woodworking safety guidelines and occupational safety guidelines outlined in the OSHA standards. Not only should you follow these guidelines when using power tools and heavy-duty machines, even hand tools can be hazards without proper preparation.
Taking proper safety precautions can prevent lost time if you are injured from a kick back or a running blade.
It’s also a good idea to invest in insurance if your jobs feature a lot of liability. There are even insurance companies out there that can issue a proof of insurance in minutes.
What are the safety precautions to be taken during woodworking?
What are the hazards of woodworking?
What should you not do in woodshop?
What you should not do in a woodshop include wearing loose clothing, working under the influence, not wearing PPE for protection and not going against the cutting head. Not being fully focused on your work and having multiple power tools on at the same time are all things you should not do.
Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.
Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.