In Nashville, multiple custom woodworking businesses share a 10,000-square foot cooperative, called Fort Houston after its neighborhood.

Woodworkers: Most Commented Article October 2013Excellent article. How do these schools/clubs get insurance if someone gets hurt on a machine or in the shop, especially since they are taking a fee per month? As a lifetime architectural millworker and owner, I was thinking of donating or buying a shop with substantial brand new equipment in our area and opening a public woodshop, but was discouraged by liability insurance issues on students and facility visitors. An insurance premium quoted and not guaranteed was mid six-figures a year; one insurance company said they would not guarantee that they could issue a policy at all, but would look at it. Any advice or thoughts on this issue? I see these schools and guilds all the time and none of them have coverage at all. – Name withheld on request

We have heard this question frequently, so I discussed it at length with Daniel Heering, co-founder. Fort Houston had insurance on its first version of the shop, a smaller 2,000-square-foot operation. When it enlarged to 10,000 square feet, a broker shopped for insurance, with full disclosure of the purpose of the enterprise. He found insurance, under the condition all operators must receive safety and operational training – a common step at other community shops and small-scale training centers around the country. Fort Houston was also required to update some equipment with safer models, so JET’s move to outfit the shop with two table saws, two bandsaws, miter saw, joiner, planer, sanders, lathes, and dust collection was a huge help. “JET’s partnership with Fort Houston has enhanced woodshop safety, with training and proper tool operation built into the membership,” notes Joan Duvall, JET marketing manager.

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