Woodworking Tool Safety Hazards

by Thor Zosla
If you like woodworking and woodworking tools, you should be aware of the various woodworking hazards that can cause immediate injury to a person. For example, if a person's hands were to contact a saw blade.

Some hazards are associated with long-term exposure to certain substances or to excessive noise levels or vibrations. For example, certain types of wood dust can cause allergic reactions.

Here are some significant woodworking tool hazards you should have in mind, and some recommended instructions you should follow when using woodworking tools:

[Fire and Explosion Hazards]

- Be careful of large quantities of fuel in the form of wood and wood products, sawdust, and flammable materials such as paints, oil finishes, adhesives, solvents, and liquid propane for internal combustion engines. These are all flammable.

Possible Solutions:

- Preventing the buildup of dust is one of the key means for controlling fire and explosion hazards.

- Ensure the proper use and storage of flammable materials, such as paints, finishes, adhesives, and solvents.

- Segregate tasks particularly prone to fire and explosion hazards, such as spray painting,welding, and use of powder-actuated nail guns.

- Control ignition sources. This involves using electrical systems rated for the projected use and protected by appropriate circuit breakers, grounding all equipment prone to accumulating static electrical charges.

- Ensure that you use equipment with a hazard classification appropriately rated for your work environment.

[Electrical Hazards]

- Electrical hazards include electrocution, fire, or explosions. Even slight shocks can leadto injury or worse, to death.

Possible Solutions:

- All of the metal framework on electrically driven machines must be grounded, including the motor, motor casing, legs, and frame.

- All machines must have a main power disconnect for lockout/tagout.

[Point of Operation Hazards]

The point of operation is the place where work is performed on the material. This is where the wood is cut, shaped, bored, or formed. Most woodworking machines use a cutting and/or shearing action.

Common Hazards include injury if your hands get too close to the blade, particularly when working on small pieces of wood.

- wood can get stuck in a blade and actually pull the operator's hands into the machine.

- If the machine has controls that are not recessed or remote, and the equipment is accidentally started, a worker's hands may be caught at the point of operation.

- Contact also can occur during machine repair or cleaning if care is not taken to de-energize the machine - that is, if lockout/tagout procedures are not followed.

Possible Solutions:

- Machine Guarding - Guards are now standard equipment on most woodworking machines. If you purchase a machine that does not come equipped with a guard, install one. Contact the manufacturer of the machine to see if appropriate guard(s) are available for the equipment.

- Use appropriate equipment for the job. Workers can be seriously injured if they do not use the correct equipment for a job. Use machines only for work within the rated capacity specified by the machine manufacturer. Use the correct tools on a given machine. For example, when using a circular saw, use the correct blade for the required cutting action.

- Use a brush or stick to clean sawdust and scrap from a machine

- Never leave a machine unattended in the "on" position.

- Never saw freehand. Always hold the wood against a gauge or fence.

[Kickback Hazards]

Kickbacks occur when a saw seizes the wood and hurls it back at the operator. This can happen when the wood twists and binds against the side of the blades or is caught in the teeth. A blade that is not sharpened, or that is set at an incorrect height, can cause kickbacks.

Poor-quality lumber (in other words, frozen lumber or lumber with many knots or foreign objects such as nails) can also result in kickbacks. Kickbacks occur more often when cutting parallel to the wood grain (ripping) than when cross-cutting.

The major hazard with kickbacks is the wood being hurled back at the operator. Hazards due to kickbacks are most likely when there is a lack of safeguards, such as spreaders, anti-kickback fingers, and gauge or rip fences.

Possible Solutions:

- Use a spreader to prevent material from squeezing the saw or kicking back during ripping.

- Use anti-kickback fingers on both sides of the blade to hold the wood down in the event that the saw kicks back the material.

- Do not use wood that has checks, splits, cracks, or knots.

- Allow glued joints to dry before working on wood

- Hold tools firmly in both hands.

- Provide regular preventive maintenance. Regularly clean and maintain woodworking equipment and guards. Ensure that blades are in good condition. Knives and cutting heads must be kept sharp, properly adjusted, and secured. Sharpening blades prevents kickback. You must also remove any cracked or damaged blades from service. Keep circular saw blades round and balanced.

- Avoid deep cuts; they increase the likelihood of kickbacks.

- Do not feed boards of different thickness. Thinner boards will be kicked back.

[Noise Hazards]

Noise sources generally include motors, gears, belts and pulleys, points of operation where blades touch wood, and any other moving parts.

Possible Solutions:

- Maintaine motors and all moving parts in top operating condition. Maintenance involves lubricating and cleaning; replacing worn parts; maintaining proper belt tensions and bolt torques; and properly balancing pulleys, blades, and other rotating parts.

- Ensure that equipment frames are as rigid as possible, that equipment is firmly seated on a solid floor (preferably cement slab), and that no piece of equipment is in contact with any other piece or with walls.

- Isolating noisy equipment with rubber footings, springs, or other forms of damping suspension so as to reduce the radiation and amplification of noise via vibrations.

- Use hearing protection devices. These, isolate the human ear from harmful noises. They should be worn as the final line of defense against noise hazards. Hearing protection devices can be effective and, compared to source and path control efforts, relatively inexpensive.

[Vibration Hazards]

Woodworking tools may cause vibration that could lead to "white fingers" or hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). White fingers, or Raynaud's Syndrome, is a disease of the hands in which the blood vessels in the fingers collapse due to repeated exposure to vibration.

This is especially dangerous when proper damping techniques are not applied, if machines are not maintained, if tools are not alternated, or if a person uses a vibrating tool for consecutive hours during a workday.

Possible Solutions

- Maintain machines in proper working order. Unbalanced rotating parts or unsharpened cutting tools can give off excessive vibration.

- keep your hands warm and dry, and to not grip a vibrating tool too tightly. You should allow the tool or machine to do the work.

[Wood Dust--Carcinogens Hazards]

Exposure to wood dust has long been associated with a variety of adverse health effects, including dermatitis, allergic respiratory effects, mucosal and nonallergic respiratory effects, and cancer. Contact with the irritant compounds in wood sap can cause dermatitis and other allergic reactions.

The respiratory effects of wood dust exposure include asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and chronic bronchitis.

[Chemical Hazards]

Chemical hazards involves exposure to coatings, finishings, adhesives etc. Finishing operations pose a wide range of health and safety hazards due to the volume and physical properties of the chemicals involved.

To best protect yourself from the chemical hazards related to finishing operations, identify the specific chemicals in use within the facility and consult the appropriate standards to determine required controls.

About the author:
Are You A Woodworking Guru? If Not, Would You Like To Be One? Have A Look at this Professional WoodWorking guide.There's also a free, No obligation mini eCourse about The Joinery Techniques That Are Essential to Fine Woodworking! Click Here!

Howard Watkins
Industrial Electrician (retired)

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