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How To Use Power Tools Safely

Dec 6, 2007
Craig is a skilled and experienced woodworker. It's more than a hobby for him, it's his passion. And sometimes our passions get the best of us. Like that Saturday when Craig wanted to make one more cut near the end of a long day.

In a moment of rare inattention, the saw blade snagged in the wood and his hand flew toward the blade. Thanks to a skilled surgeon, Craig did not lose part of his thumb that day.

They say to let the tools do the work, but tools can't do the thinking, too. Craig learned an important lesson. Now he turns off the machines and doesn't overdo it.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 100,000 people each year suffer injuries that require emergency room treatment from using home power tools.

The table saw is involved in more serious injuries than any other woodworking device. Most table saw injuries occur during ripping operations.

Proper Preparation

* Take the time to read all instructions on the proper use of your power tools. If you don't use a tool frequently, review the safety instructions before each use. Follow the maintenance schedule suggested by the manufacturer.

* Plan power tool projects. Think through the moves your hands will make before you make them.

* Select the proper tool for the job, and only use the accessories built specifically for that tool.

* Do not force a small tool or attachment to do the job of a heavy-duty tool. Makeshift tools can cause accidents.

* Keep all safety guards in place and in proper working condition.

* Allow ample space in the workshop to work safely.

* Keep the area free of clutter.

* Keep the area well lighted. Eliminate all shadows.

* Keep children and onlookers out of your work area.

* Wear safety apparel, including goggles or safety glasses with side shields. Never wear loose clothing or jewelry around power equipment. Use gloves that are job-rated for the kind of work you are doing.

* Clean your hands before using tools to prevent slippage.

* Never work when you tired, distracted, or angry.

* If your hands are sore, arthritic or injured, don't use power tools.

* Don't use any tool that is worn or broken.

* Keep your workshop well ventilated.

* Keep idle tools stored and out of the reach of children.

In The Heat Of The Action

* Avoid overconfidence or repetitious operations that lull you into carelessness. Periodically pause and refocus.

* Maintain good balance and footing. Don't overreach, or reach over or behind a moving saw blade.

* Do not force tools. Let them do the work.

* When cutting, use sticks or blocks to keep your hands away from moving blades.

* Use clamps and vises to secure the object you're working on.

* Do not touch a bit or blade after cutting or drilling. They can be painfully hot.

* Do not try to catch falling objects. The sudden movement can disrupt your safety equilibrium.

* Never leave a machine with the motor "coasting."

* Never hurry a job.

* Promptly sweep up all sawdust.

* Don't smoke or drink alcohol when working.

Respect The Power

* Always use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).

* Ground all your power tools, unless they are clearly marked "double insulated."

* Do not use power tools in wet or damp places. Rubber-soled shoes and heavy rubber mats are good precautions in any conditions.

* Don't use tools with damaged cords or improper extension cords.

* Never carry a portable tool by its cord or yank the tool or extension cords from the receptacle.

* Be certain the switch is on "OFF" when plugging in a tool. Do not carry a plugged-in tool with your finger on the switch.

* Unplug tools when they are not in use, or when you are adjusting them or installing accessories.
About the Author
John Myre is the author of the award-winning book, Live Safely in a Dangerous World, and the publisher of the Safety Times Reproducible Articles..
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