Woodworking can be a dangerous activity if the correct safety procedures aren’t followed. Woodworking machinery includes circular, crosscut and rip saws, boring and mortising machines, radial arm saws, band saws, jointers, planers, sanding machines and lathes.
All of this equipment has the potential to cause injuries, the most serious being severe cuts and even amputations caused by sharp and rotating parts. Other potential injuries include friction burns, abrasions and nips which can crush fingers, hands or other body parts.
Although machinists must adhere to general safety procedures and exercise common sense when using the machinery, following the rules when it comes to protective clothing can further decrease the risks of serious injury. You should never work without the following pieces of protective clothing:
Protective glasses are a vital piece of safety equipment. Although there are numerous styles, all have the same crucial features – namely impact-resistant lenses and side-screens – which will protect against the debris and dust created by power tools.
Anyone working with loud machinery and power tools must wear hearing protection. Woodworking has some of the noisiest machinery in industry – even short exposure to high noise levels can cause temporary hearing loss and continued exposure can cause permanent damage to hearing, including deafness and tinnitus or “ringing” in the ears. People working in woodworking shops are commonly exposed to noise exceeding the upper safe level of 85 dB. The noisiest machines include vertical spindle moulders – 100dB, multi-cutter moulders – 105 dB and thicknessers at 104dB. Employers must provide hearing protection and ensure operators use it, offering a choice: earmuffs, semi-aural and semi-insert ear plugs are quick and easy to fit, while level-dependent protectors permit easier communication during quiet intervals. Custom-moulded plugs may be more comfortable for employees to wear.
Woodworking machinery can generate a lot of dust and users should wear a dust mask to prevent fine particles from entering your lungs. If you’re spraying paint or varnish, a respirator can be a more appropriate choice, to protect users from the potentially harmful effects of the chemicals.
A full face-shield can be worn for extra protection, as well as safety glasses. This is particularly useful when using a lathe, as this can generate flying chips. A clear, full-face shield can help prevent serious injury. They are designed to be comfortable and to be flipped up when not in use.
When working with woodworking machinery, you must wear the appropriate clothing. Never wear loose-fitting garments, as they can become entangled in power tools, causing serious hazards. Similarly, never wear jewellery such as rings and bracelets, a tie, or have long, loose hair, as these can also become entangled. Appropriate clothing is comfortable, long-sleeved shirts and long trousers, with sturdy steel-toed safety shoes.
Gloves provide protection from splinters for your hands when handling wood. However, don’t wear gloves near the rotating blades or other moving machinery parts, as they can become entangled.
In addition to wearing the appropriate protective clothing, always keep the work area clean and free of clutter, ensuring spills are cleaned up right away. Simple good housekeeping can help reduce the risks of falls, slips and trips.
Before you begin to use any machinery, you must consider the risks that may occur and take steps to manage and prevent them. The hazards must be minimised through effective machine safeguards, appropriate safety procedures and operator training.