Let me start off by saying that safety is never a joking matter, – So why are you writing this post? – and in the short five months that I have been writing this blog, safety has occupied 5% of all posts on this website (now standing at 10%). The last time I talked on this subject it was the basic idea of personal responsibility. If you are uncomfortable with it, do not do it; just say, “No.” Well … I do not want to beat a dead horse – or a live one for that matter – so let us get to the matter at hand: 2014 MWA Safety Day.
There will probably be a lot of talk about the things we use in our shops:
- A running table saw should not be used as a leaning post.
- Your power drill cannot be converted to take plaque off your teeth.
- If you are thirsty, mineral spirits is not a good substitute for water.
- Juggling chisels to wear Hello Kitty band-aids is not appropriate.
- Butchers use band saws too.
All the usual stuff.
But I do not want to spend too much time on the obvious – Socrates tried to be original too, look what happened to him. The thing I want everybody to do on this Woodworker Safety Day is to look down. What do you see? – Do you mean besides the fact that your shoes need to be polished? – If you see concrete, bad; if you see an anti-fatigue mat, good. We often get caught up in the gory part of shop safety, but we also need to remember that just as we protect our hearing we should also protect our feet and backs.
When I was setting up my shop a few years ago, I was able to get the monastery’s old DeWalt radial arm saw out of storage and moved into place. I had help getting it moved from the storage room to the shop but others things were happening and my confrere could not help me set it up right away. I sometimes get impatient – by sometimes he means regularly – and I did not want to wait and I started jostling it into position. The next thing I know I hear a ‘pop’ sound and the most excruciating pain courses through my back. Since then my back has been fairly sensitive. A couple of hours on bare concrete and my back is killing me – it reminds me of this. After getting the anti-fatigue mats in April, I can work in the shop for hours. I can still over do it, but the difference is amazing.
And if you still need the threat of something being cut off for you to pay attention to a safety announcement, remember this … Back pain means that you become more focused on your back and not the power tool in front of you. Lack of attention focused on what you are doing in the wood shop has every potential to necessitate a trip to the emergency room. But do not do it just to keep all your fingers, use anti-fatigue mats because you deserve happy feet and a happy back.