Shop Safety Basics

Shop Safety Basics: Guarding your Eyes, Ears and Lungs

Woodworking is one of the most fulfilling activities for those who are creative and love to work with their hands. Like anyone who has ever stepped foot into a workshop for the first time, the first thing you are told to do is not touch anything, sit down and listen. The first speech about shop safely always includes eyes, ears and lung protection. This is the first safety lesson.

Protecting one's eyes is one of the most important issues, because in one moment debris can land into one's eyes- creating instant damage. Protection of ones ears and lungs helps potential long term health problems, but they are also no less important.
The following is a reminder to all of us the rules we had once learned many years ago, because they are always applicable. These rules apply to all shops, and protect against injury, as well as keeping your lungs clear for healthy breathing.

The most basic safety rules include the following:

  • Always wear safety goggles.
  • Always wear ear protection.
  • Use a respirator or dust mask.

1. Eye Protection: Wear Safety Glasses!!

Whether you are ripping lumber on a table saw, routing wood with your router bits, shaping wood with shaper cutters, using a power drill or even applying finish, there is no time in the workshop that you should be without your safety glasses. Safety goggles are the most important piece of safety equipment. At any moment dust debris and chemicals can come flying off your work piece and into your eye.

Proper eye protection will have shatter-proof lenses with side screens to protect against dust and debris created by power tools. They can range from low-cost plastic goggles to designer prescription safety glasses.

Put them on when you enter the shop, and don't take them off until you leave. Your eyesight is too important to take chances with.

2. Hearing Protection: Use Ear Muffs/Plugs!!

A woodworking shop is considered one of the noisiest work places within all industries. Ideally, just like safety glasses, ear protection should be worn all of the time. As ear protection can become bulky and uncomfortable, it is not realistic that they will be used all day, every day. Therefore,  when working with loud power tools and machinery such as: routers, surface planers and joiners, make sure to then have your ear protection on.

The most common types of ear protection are: ear muffs and ear plugs. Ear plugs tend to be less bulky than ear muffs and generally speaking, offer a bit less protection against the high decibel noise. Either one, with consistent use, will help protect against potential hearing issues.

Remember, hearing protection will only provide the right level of protection if it is worn properly and for the whole time that users are exposed to high noise levels.

3. Lung Protection: Respirators & Filtration Systems

Sanders, routers and other power tools can generate a lot of dust. When using these tools it is a good idea to install and use a dust and chip collection system. Finishes and the use of chemical agents can also generate harmful fumes. For chemical agents air filters are very beneficial, as they can reduce the amount of fumes or fine dust circulating in a shop. The last line of defense is a respirator, which can range in style from a disposable dust mask to a respirator with replaceable filter cartridges.

Although the last line of defense, a dust mask is no less important than the installation of an air filtration system. These masks keep fine particles from entering your lungs. A simple way to see with your own eyes the power of a mask is to use one that has replaceable filters. After a week of use remove the filter and see all of the dust which was stopped from entering your lungs.

Lung protection is important for your long term health. Always have clean air moving through your shop and always wear lung protection when creating dust and using chemicals.