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Shop Safety

Woodworking Shop Safety:

Power operated woodworking tools and machines can be  dangerous if not handled and operated properly. The following practices should be  utilized to minimize the potential for injury:

A. Personnel Training:

Only personnel who have been thoroughly trained should be authorized to operate power saws and other woodworking machinery.  Shop supervisors are responsible for constant observation of shop practices to ensure all safety regulations are being followed.  When unsafe acts are noted, it is the responsibility of the supervisor to see they are corrected.  

B. Use of Personal Protective Equipment:

Safety glasses, goggles or face shields should be worn while operating power tools.  Personnel should not wear loose clothing or other articles that may become entangled in the machine or on the stock being cut. 

C. Safe Operating Methods for Wood Saws: 

all authorized saw operators should carefully observe the following operating standards:


  1. Hands should be kept out of the line of cut while stock is being fed into the saw.  
  2. Stock should be held against a gauge or fence and never sawed freehand.  A push stick should always be used when short or narrow stock is being ripped. 
  3. The operator should stand out of the line of the stock being cut, making sure the hands or fingers are out of the cutting area. 4. Long stock should never be crosscut on a table saw.  
  4. The saw should not be left on while unattended.  
  5. Sawdust and silvers should be cleaned from the saw with a brush, not with the hands or a rag.  
  6. The saw guard or fence gauge should never be adjusted while the saw is operating.  
  7. Saw tables 36" above the floor, offer the most efficient working height.  
  8. Generally, circular saws should not be operated at speeds of more than 10, 000 peripheral feet per minute, measured at the blade. However, if blades have been tensioned for higher rates such speed is authorized.  


D. Precautions for Using Compressed Air:  

Complete safety standards for using compressed air and its generating equipment are given in Section 1.9.  The precautions set forth here pertain particularly to the use of compressed air in woodworking shops and should be strictly observed by all shop personnel: 


  1. Shop personnel should not use compressed air for removing dust and wood chips from their hair, bodies or clothing.   
  2. Air hoses laid across aisles, floors or doorways should be guarded by an appropriate bridge, securely fastened to the floor or properly suspended over-head to prevent tripping hazards or hose damage.  
  3. Eye protection should be worn while using compressed air to clean equipment.


E. Proper Machine Locations: 


  1. Circular saws should be located with sufficient space to allow free movement and easy handling of long pieces of lumber.  Minimum clearance at either end of the saw should be at least three feet more than the longest piece of stock normally used.  Long stock should be placed on either a table addition or support stands to ensure the safe operation.  
  2. Circular saws should be fastened securely to floors or individual mountings.  
  3. Rip saws should be so located that they will not be directly in line with other equipment.  This will prevent nearby workers from being hit by material that might kickback from the rip saw.  If space does not permit this type of positioning, a metal or plank barricade should be placed between the ripsaw and other machinery or between the saw and other personnel. 


F. Electrical switches:

Each saw should be equipped with a master switch that can be locked and tagged during repair or maintenance operations. 


  1. Operating switches should be located so the operator can reach them without moving from his normal working position.  
  2. Power saws should have a trip device in the switch to prevent the  machine from operating when electric service is restored after a power failure. 


G. Saw Blade Collars:

Only outer edges of collars should be allowed to bear on saw blades.  Before use, the saw should be tested for blade trueness.

H. Table Saw Feedrolls:

Feedrolls should be effectively guarded with a half cylinder blocking device to prevent the operator's hands from being caught between the rollers and stock.  A clearance of no more than 3/8” should be left between the plane of the feedrolls and the blocking device.  

I. Table Saw Power Brakes:

Each circular saw should be equipped with a power brake so the blade can be safely stopped after the motor is turned off.  

J. Floors: 

Floors around woodworking machines should be kept clean, in good repair and covered with non-slip materials as necessary.  

K. Radial Arm Saws:


  1. Saws should be equipped with a mechanical device to prevent the front edge of the saw from traveling beyond the front edge of the table. 
  2. A return mechanism should also be provided to automatically return the saw to the back of the table when it is released at any point in its travel. 
  3. A self-locking device should be installed to keep the saw from rebounding when released.  
  4. The upper hood guard should completely enclose the upper portion of the blade down to a point that includes the end of the saw arbor.  The hood should be constructed to protect the operator from flying splinters, broken saw teeth and to deflect sawdust away from the operator.  
  5. The sides of the lower exposed portion of the blade should be guarded to the full diameter of the blade by a device that will automatically adjust to the thickness of the stock and remain in contact with the stock.  
  6. Saws used for ripping should be provided with non-kickback fingers or dogs on both sides to oppose the thrust or tendency of the saw to pick up material and throw it back toward the operator.  They should provide adequate holding power for all the thicknesses of stock being used. 


L. Circular Saws: 

Circular saws must not be used without guards. The operator should observe the following before starting daily operations: 

  1. Blades should be inspected before each use to make certain that there are no defects or cracks. 
  2. Most cracks begin in teeth gullets.  If a cracked blade is used, the crack can grow larger and the blade may break.  The following precautions should be taken to prevent blades from cracking: 
    1. The blade should be tensioned for the speed at which it is to operate.  If the blade is too loose, it can vibrate, heat up, expand and crack.  
    2. The teeth should have enough clearance to prevent burning.  If the blade becomes hot, it will expand and can crack.  
    3. The saw should be perfectly rounded.  Inspect to see that the rim is concentric with the eye.  
    4. The saw should be perfectly balanced or it will wobble and can crack.  
    5. Saw blades should be kept sharp. If the blade is not cutting properly, it will pound on the wood and eventually crack.  
    6. A spreader should be used to prevent stock from kicking back.
    7. The side of the spreader facing the blade should be shaped to follow the approximate curve of the saw.  It should not be less than 3 2" wide at the tabletop.  In unusual cases where this width cannot be obtained, the spreader should be at least 2@ wide where it rests on the cutting table.  
    8. The portion of the blade below the cutting table should be completely enclosed or guarded by a rigid exhaust hood.  
  3. Adequate supervision is necessary to ensure that guards are being used.   
  4. Rip saws should be equipped with anti-kick-back dogs.  The points of the dogs should ride on the stock to keep it from being forced up and back toward the operator.  Kickbacks on ripsaws usually result from one of the following: 
    1. Failure to use a spreader.  
    2. Improperly conditioned blade, allowing stock to pinch and rise off the table. 
    3. Improperly aligned gauge or fence.  
    4. Improperly designed or mounted kickback dogs.  On a saw where the arbor is above the table, the rotation of the blade is reversed.  On this type saw it is necessary to locate the anti-kick-back fingers ahead of the blade to prevent the stock from rising.
  5. On rabbeting and dadoing jobs, it is impossible to use a spreader.  Often it may be necessary to remove the blade hood.  This type of operation should be guarded by a jig that slides in the grooves of the transverse guide. The work should be locked in the jig and the operator's hands should be kept clear of the blade.  The standard blade hood guard should be replaced immediately after rabbeting or dadoing work is completed.  
  6. All machine guards should be constructed and installed so they continue to function properly when the cutting table or blade is tilted.  
  7. Push sticks should be used to prevent injury when sawing short or narrow pieces of work.  Guards should be securely in place when push sticks are used.  

M. Wood Band Saws:

Both upper and lower driving wheels should be completely enclosed by solid metal, woven wire mesh or expanded sheet metal and securely 

fastened to the metal framework. The enclosure should be at least 4" from the upper wheel to avoid contacting and breaking the blade.  Band saws should be securely anchored to the floor or machine foundation to prevent vibration and the following should also be observed: 

  1. Band saw drive wheels should be checked periodically for defects requiring repair or replacement.  
  2. The cutting edge of the blade should be completely enclosed except at the point of operation.  
  3. The return part of the blade should be completely guarded along its full length between the upper and lower drive wheels. 
  4. Self-fed band saws should be safeguarded by a half-cylinder device to prevent the operator's hands from contacting the feedrolls.  5. Defective blades should not be used and should be immediately rejected.  Operators should only use a blade designed for the job at hand. 
  5. Every band saw should be equipped with an automatic blade tension control.  This device compensates for blade contraction after cooling and ensures proper operating tension at all times.  
  6. Band saw operators should be required to wear safety goggles or face shields to protect their eyes while working at the saws.  
  7. To avoid ultraviolet radiation burns, operators should use adequate eye protection when using a butt welder to slice broken saw blades.  

N. Wood Jointers:

The following precautions should be observed: 

  1. All jointers should be equipped with cylindrical cutting heads. Square cutting heads should not be used. 
  2. Throats of cutting heads should not be larger than 3/8" deep and 1/2" wide. 
  3. Operators should wear safety  glasses, goggles or face shields to protect their eyes from flying wood chips.  
  4. Self-adjusting guards should cover cutting heads on both sides of the guide fence. These guards should be adjustable both vertically and horizontally.  
  5. The guide fence should be located as close to the front of jointer table as the width of the work will permit.  
  6. Only sharp, balanced knives should be used on jointer cutting heads. Before each operation, the knives should be inspected for defects and to be certain they are securely fastened.  
  7. Push sticks or push blocks with handles should be used on all work as a general safety precaution.  They should be mandatory on work shorter than 18" or less than 1/2" thick. 
  8. Unusually deep cuts should be avoided to avoid kickback.  

O. Wood Shapers:

Various spindles may be used to make different types of cuts.  The following safety precautions should be utilized to minimize injury: 

  1. Each cutting head and spindle end should be enclosed in a cage or adjustable guard to prevent operator contact with the cutting edge. 
  2. Jigs, fixtures and templates should be used to hold work in the shaper.  
  3. If one blade must be removed from a shaper spindle, all others should also be removed.  Starting switches should be locked-out to prevent accidental start-up during blade changing.  
  4. Short blades that are not bearing along the entire area of the collar should not be used in shaping operations. 
  5. Collar surfaces should be smooth and free of burrs to ensure a secure bearing surface for cutting blades. 
  6. Double spindle shapers should be equipped with individual starting and stopping devices for each spindle. 
  7. Only sharp knives of the same length and balance and free from defects should be used in shaper spindles. 
  8. Shaper operators should not "back up" on a cut.  It is extremely dangerous to run stock in the same direction as the spindle's rotation.   
  9. Stock should not be fed too quickly.  
  10. Deep cuts should be avoided.  
  11. Operators should wear safety glasses, goggles or face shields for eye protection.  

P. Wood Lathes: 

  1. Flying chips are a common hazard of lathe operations. The tool rest should be adjusted so as to be reasonably close to the work piece.  
  2. Personnel working on lathes should not wear loose clothing, untied long hair or jewelry that may become tangled in the lathe.  
  3. Lathe cutting heads should be enclosed in adjustable case iron or other metal guards.  An exhaust hood may form part of the guard if it is also made of metal. 
  4. Operators should avoid taking deep cuts. Deep cuts can result in the cutting tool being forcibly ejected.  
  5. Operators of back-knife lathes should not reach under the lathe to place stock in the centering frame. Instead, they should lower the knife far enough to reach over it.  
  6. Heads set along the rear of the machine should be covered by a hinged metal guard, that will not interfere with the lathe's operation. 
  7. Treadle-operated lathes should be effectively guarded to prevent accidental tripping of the treadle. 
  8. Exposed gears, sprockets and chains should be properly guarded.  
  9. Operators should wear safety glasses, goggles or face shields for eye protection.  

Q. Wood Sanders:

This equipment should be completely guarded both below and above the worktable. The only exposed part of the machine should be the actual point of operation. The following should also be observed: 

  1. Adequately designed exhaust hoods are an essential part of sanding machines because of the rapid rate of dust production.  The exhaust hood may also serve as a machine guard.  
  2. The feedrolls of a self-feeding sander should be guarded by a blocking device.  It should consist of half-cylinder guards that come within 3/8" of the plane formed by the face of the feedrolls and the stock material.  
  3. Both pulleys of a belt sander and the entire run of the sanding belt, except the working portion, should be completely enclosed.  
  4. The space between the sanding disk and the edge of the opening on table sanders should only be enough to allow free movement of the disk. Under no circumstances should the clearance be more than 1/2".  
  5. When performing finishing work on a belt, disk or drum sander operators should use work forms. 
  6. Operators should wear safety glasses, goggles or face shields for eye protection.  

R. Wood Tenoning Machines:  

The cutting heads or saws of all tenoning machines should be enclosed in adequate guards except for the working portion.  When an exhaust system is used, the hood may form all or part of the guard.  Always observe the following: 

  1. Feed chains and sprockets of double-end tenoning machines shall be completely enclosed for the stock conveying parts. The sprockets and chains for the conveyor should also be guarded by plates extending beyond the edge of the sprockets and lugs. 
  2. Hand-fed machines should be equipped with clamping devices to prevent stock from moving out of position.  
  3. Operators should wear safety glasses, goggles or face shields for eye protection.  

S. Wood Planers, Molders, Stickers and Matchers:

These machines should have their cutting heads or saws covered by guards. It is also necessary to observe the following: 

  1. Machines should be completely stopped before attempting to clear jammed work or remove debris.   
  2. Cases should be used to carry knives and assembly cutting heads to and from tool rooms.  
  3. Feedrolls should be guarded by a hood or semi-cylindrical guard.  The guard should be fastened to the roller frame so it will remain in adjustment for any thickness or stock.  
  4. Sectional feed rollers should be used on planers.  Where solid feed rollers are used, sectional finger devices should be used to prevent stock from kicking back.  
  5. Operators should wear safety glasses, goggles or face shields for eye protection.