Woodworking can be a lot of fun, but it can also have a lot of hidden dangers and hazards we don’t always think about. These 22 basic but very important woodworking safety tips to help you prevent and avoid accidents and injuries.
Why Woodworking Safety is Important
No one ever wants to talk about woodworking safety rules or guidelines, but it is a very important thing to learn as a beginner woodworker.
Many people are aware of the many dangers associated with woodworking and using sharp power tools. While people may know the things they are supposed to do to stay safe, this doesn’t mean that everyone actually practices basic safety.
The More Experienced You Are, The More Likely It Is You Will Have Accidents
It’s surprising for many to learn that many injuries and accidents happen to people who are actually very experienced. Experience can often cause over confidence, or sometimes lead to many people thinking they can get away without following safety rules because they “know what they are doing”.
It is VERY important to remember we live in an ever changing unpredictable world. We can’t predict when accidents will happen, even if we are very intuitive or very experienced.
I should also write a full disclaimer here that I am a mom. By nature, my survival instinct is to make sure everyone stays alive. I have what I call an “automatic mother reaction” in almost any sort of dangerous situation. Sorry folks, but as a mom, I have to pull the mom card here and say, “Safety First!”
There are other reasons for safety rules. There are a lot of advantages to staying safe. While preventing injuries and accidents is the number one reason you would want to stay safe, there are many other ways it can be very beneficial.
3 Additional Benefits When You Practice Good Woodworking Safety Habits
Not getting hurt is the top priority, but there are a lot of other great benefits to following the basic safety rules for power tools and other fine woodworking.
1. Safety Saves You Time and Energy
It’s a huge pet peeve of mine that people will say that they “didn’t want to waste the time” to go get the right tool or a pair of glasses or gloves.
Most likely, if you’re working on a project and your safety gear is not easily within reach, you are probably wasting a lot of valuable time and energy by not working as efficiently as you should be.
Whenever I build something, I follow a very specific process. I do all of my measuring and cuts at the same time. This means that the gear I use for staying safe is right there with my tools.
There are other advantages to cutting everything at once, in a place where my safety gear is easily accessible. Making the majority of my cuts at one time means that the wood doesn’t warp or bend if I’m working on a project that spans several days or weeks.
All too often I see people who start by cutting two boards and they then go to assemble them before cutting the other materials they need for the project.
While this may make sense in some types of projects, in general the changing back and forth between tasks can cost a lot of time and energy. If you are constantly switching gears between different functions while working, you are also likely to run into other issues.
For example, you may notice your wood swells or shrinks and doesn’t always line up correctly. This means the pieces you cut last week don’t match up with the ones you cut yesterday. Now you have to spend time “fixing” the problem instead of avoiding it in the first place.
Beyond just being more practical, taking the time to be safe can prevent a lot of lost time if an accident might happen. Think about the time it takes to sit in the waiting room of a doctor’s office or emergency room. That can be hours.
Some injuries could also mean you may also lose time from being unable to work. If you sprain your wrist for trying to lift something too heavy and are unable to put any stress or weight on your wrist for a week, that can also cost a lot of valuable time.
2. Safety Saves You Money
Just as having a safe and efficient workflow in your building process can save you time, it also saves you money. If you develop good safety habits, you are going to have a more efficient work flow. This again translates into less mistakes and money saved on wasted materials.
Saving money on project costs is great, but just think how much more money you will save by not having to go to the doctor’s office or being faced with major medical bills.
Even minor injuries from carelessness can cost money – think how much money the cost of bandaids and other first aid supplies can add up over the years.
3. You Can Teach Others to Be Safe: Lead By Example
A lot of people think wearing things like safety glasses and a dust mask looks dorky. People don’t want to do those things because they’re afraid they won’t fit in. It’s time we make safety cool and lead by example.
Just think how it could be if everyone practiced good habits when building and using their tools. Those who didn’t use safety gear would look like the odd ones out rather than the other way around.
You should also definitely want to “practice what you preach” if you are sharing your woodworking skills and experience with others. This is especially true for kids, as setting a good example will likely stay with them for a very long time.
If you are more experienced, it’s also important to remember just because you know what you are doing doesn’t mean people who watch or learn from you do.You also don’t know who might be watching or picking up on different things. We as humans learn from observation.
Sometimes it’s helpful to think about what you are doing and whether or not you would want someone who has never used a power saw before to do it the same way you do. I’d be very nervous if one of my kids ever tried to run a nail gun the way I’ve seen some professional contractors toss them around in the air!
If you are new to woodworking, get into the habit of doing things the safe way early. Starting good habits early is a lot easier than trying to correct old habits.
Hopefully all of this will help convince you it really is WORTH learning what will help you not get hurt while woodworking. No one wants to get hurt, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to save money or time.
Now that we know why we want to practice woodworking safety habits, we’re ready to talk about the basic rules and safety guidelines that are important to follow.
A List of Common Dangers, Hazards, and Cautions Involved With Woodworking
The first thing to do is to be aware of what types of hazards exist when you work with various building materials and tools. Simply being aware of possible dangers and problems can help you avoid a lot of accidents and injuries.
Electrocution hazards apply to a lot more than just power tools when you are building. Even if you are using hand tools, it’s still important to consider other electrical hazards in your environment, such as lights and extension cords.
Here are some common dangers and hazards to consider:
- Power tools use electricity. Some power tools have very high voltage.
- Power tools may still retain a charge even if not plugged in.
- Nailing, Drilling, Sawing or otherwise contacting any type of live electrical wire in existing structures can result in electrical shock injuries.
Falling and Tripping Hazards
Anytime you are working on a DIY project or building something, there are always risks of falling. Even if you aren’t on a ladder, it’s easy to slip, trip, or even be unexpectedly hit by falling objects.
Here are some common things to look out for:
- Tangled Power cords.
- Paint Buckets
- Untied Shoelaces
- Leftover Wood & Other Materials
- Heavy Items Overhead
- Poorly stacked storage containers
- Wet/Slippery Surfaces
- Spilled Nails
Common Tool Hazards & Dangers
Working with different types of hand tools and power tools also presents many different dangers and hazards to be aware of.
- Clothes, Gloves or Hair can get caught in drills, saws, or other tools which rotate
- Tools often have sharp edges, it is important to walk with them safely.
- Dull blades can cause slippage and accidents.
- Tools are most dangerous if tripped on – keep your workspace neat and tidy.
- Protect your hands with gloves to avoid blisters when doing repetitive tasks such as sanding or carving.
22 Woodworking Safety Tips to Follow
These 22 tips are a basic overview of different things you can look out for and do to help have fun and stay safe while woodworking. Most don’t require much extra effort and can help you develop good habits and routines to see many benefits beyond just not getting hurt.
1. Always Know Who is Nearby For Help: You should always have someone else nearby who is available to call for help if needed. This could be another person who lives with you or a neighbor.
2. Have an Emergency Plan: You should always have a basic emergency plan that outlines what to do in case of emergency. This should include emergency contact numbers, important medical conditions and any medications you are currently taking.
3. Have a First Aid Kit: With most accidents, being able to respond quickly matters. Having first
4. Wear Safety Goggles: Eye protection while working is extremely important. Saw dust can be very irritating, and if you get something in your eyes it can be very painful. Safety goggles have come a long way in design and comfort. If you normally wear glasses, you can also get prescription safety goggles.
5. Wear Gloves: Gloves are great for protecting your hands. Ideally, you should have at least two pairs of gloves, with one pair at your shop and one pair in your truck. This can help save you on a lot of splinters if you are transporting wood. Certain types of wood can cause a lot of irritation due to the natural oils of the tree. Gloves will help avoid any possible allergic reactions.
6. Wear the Right Clothes: Do not wear anything that may be loose enough to get caught in power tools. Saws, drills, and other equipment can have high RPMs that could pose a hazard. A good pair of steel toe work boots can help protect your toes.
7. Get the Saw Dust Under Control: Breathing in saw dust is not good for you at all. A good dust collection system is very helpful in keeping your shop tidy and your lungs happy.
8. Wear Protective Masks When Needed: Wearing protective masks can help reduce your exposure to breathing in saw dust or fumes when working with certain finishes. This is especially important if working with woods that have natural plant oils that can cause irritation.
9. Protect Your Ears: Many power tools are very loud. Prolonged exposure to the noise from equipment can cause hearing loss. A good pair of hearing protection ear muffs can help make sure you do not damage your hearing.
10. Respect the Tools: Always use tools for the purpose they are intended for and in the way they should be handled. Never be tempted to try to force something with the wrong tool in a way it shouldn’t be used.
11. Keep your blades Sharp: Sharp blades will always ensure smoother cuts and less problems.
12. Reduce Tripping Hazards: Be sure all power cords for any type of equipment, including lights or radios, will not be easily tripped on. Use gaffer tape or electrical tape to secure any extension cord wires in place to reduce tripping hazards if you must work any distance away from a power outlet.
13. Do not overload circuits: At best, overloading circuits and outlets will mean blown fuses in your circuit breaker boxes. Far more dangerous things can happen if you’re running a saw and you suddenly lose all power and lighting.
14. Clean Up Your Mess: Accidents are much more likely to happen when your workspace is cluttered or disorganized. Always clear away any wood cuttings and put tools in their proper place. If something spills, clean it up immediately.
15. Use Caution With Existing Construction: If you are building into the walls of a house or other existing structure, always check walls with a stud finder to locate hidden electrical wires and outlets before drilling, nailing or sawing. Coming into contact with live power lines can be very dangerous.
16. If in Doubt, Ask For Help: It’s always better to ask for help from a friend, family member or fellow woodworker about how to use a tool correctly than to be shouting for help because you hurt yourself. If you are unsure about DIY repairs you did around at home, you can always hire someone to inspect your work.
17. Have Good Lighting: If you can’t see, you are more prone to make mistakes. Make sure lighting fixtures will not cause a fire hazard. To avoid power cords from lamps and lights, consider hard wiring shop lights.
18. Be Careful Around Water: Use caution in wet environments. Slippery surfaces can cause trips and falls. You should also remember water conducts electricity. Outlets in areas where water is present should be wired properly with GFCI receptacles.
19. Get Fresh Air: In addition to a good dust collection system, it can be helpful to have a large fan or other type of ventilation system that provides fresh air when working. Many materials can cause dangerous fumes, such as varnish and other wood finishing treatments. If you are unable to have a proper ventilation system, work outdoors.
20. Practice Good Lifting Habits: Wood is heavy. The things you build might be heavy. Ladders are heavy. Tools are heavy. Learn how to lift things properly to avoid sprains and muscle soreness. Learn how to move materials in ways that reduce using your own physical energy, such as a dolly or cart to move heavy objects.
21. Take Breaks: I know that it is easy for me to sometimes get frustrated while working, especially when I am working on something that requires a lot of time to cut and patience to assemble. Taking a 5 minute break every 25-30 minutes or so can help you be more productive, not less.
22. Never work Under the Influence: Just as you wouldn’t want to drive a car if you were drunk or taking medications that cause you to be drowsy, you should also not use sharp blades or power tools which require an ability to have coordination, be alert and execute judgement.
Some of these things may take a bit of effort to make a regular habit at first. Fortunately, with enough practice and experience, safety comes easily and automatically.
Do you have any additional woodworking safety tips or rules to follow? What things do you do to make sure your workspace is safe? What are some common hazards you look out for? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.