It's a simple fact that there are many aspects of woodworking that are dangerous. I was reminded of this twice last week. The first was when a fellow woodworker left a wiping cloth on his bench when he went to get lunch. The cloth spontaneously combusted and burst into flames. The second was when another woodworker cut through most of his thumb with a table saw, leaving a blade kerf in the bone.
If your first thought is that those were easily avoidable mistakes then you and I agree, but only so far as that they are easily avoidable after the fact. Maybe it's not a table saw, maybe it's a tricky jig saw cut or a slipped chisel or any number of day to day things that happen in a shop.
It's impossible to always be in control. Even if you could be, we are working with a material that is unpredictable, cracking, breaking, bending in ways we could never foresee. I am not talking about the guys I see on job sites free hand cutting on contractor table saws. That is a whole other level of danger, and stupidity, that I won't get into.
I am talking about the shop woodworker who has made the same cut for years but one day cant reach the push stick so they push it through on their own. Or the person who's safety glasses are on the other side of the shop, and it's only a really quick cut... No matter how safe I am there is always that moment, whether consciously or unconsciously, that I put my self in danger. Maybe it's one in a million times, but one time is all it takes.
If you are reading this post because you think I have a solution to any of these dangers then you should stop here. There is no magic fix and no matter how safe you are there is always an element of danger. Yes, there are many precautions you can take. Have a clean, well lit shop. Develop a true understanding of your tools and materials ( I swear by my Sawstop table saw, if they ever put that technology in other tools I will be the first in line to get it). Schedule your jobs properly to avoid late night or rushed jobs, just to name a few.
So what's the point of this post? Why remind you that you have chosen a profession with innumerable pitfalls if I am not going to give you a solution? Reminders, that is the key. To always remember that what you are doing is dangerous, no matter if it's your first cut that day or your 100th.
Always be mindful and keep your head in the moment. No matter what is going on in the shop focus on your hands and what they are doing at that moment. Remember it yourself, remind your friends and employees, and impart it to the next generation. Each year, over 65,000 people have an accident, and that is only on table saws. Let's make our shops and our lives safer by always remembering that what we do is not safe.
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