Every business has its risks. However, woodworking shops are dangerous compared to many other firms;the wood dust can ignite, the blades used to cut wood can cut people, andheavy lumber and finished products can be dropped, potentially hurting people. Then there are the standard safety hazards of electrical equipment, which is why woodworking businesses need to keep their staff safe. Here are a few things you can do to improve your staff’s safety and mitigate the risk of property damage, too.
Limit the Risk that Wood Dust Poses
You need to protect electrical equipment from a buildup of sawdust to minimize the risk of a major fire. Also, put electrical panels and transformers away from dust producing equipment if possible. You should also have dust controlling equipment on dust-producing equipment available, such as vacuums that pull in dust from saws and store it in containers for later disposal. Ensure that all equipment is maintained to minimize the risk of sparks and overheating, which also meanskeeping ventilation ducts clear andcleaning everything on a regular basis, sweeping up dust and debris.
Play It Safe Around Trucks
Any company dealing with trucks will need to have clear procedures for loading and unloading. You should only let qualified employees run a forklift, and give them refresher training every 36 months. Ensure that they know what they’re handling and have them check that the load is secured before they leave the loading area.
Also, keep loading areas level and free of debris. Give forklifts a clear and ideally straight path from the truck to their destination, andkeep spectators away from the loading/unloading zone. Consider setting up adequate lighting around the loading zone.
Maintain Electrical Systems
Electrical systems will be dangerous if they’re not properly installed. Unfortunately, even well-made systems will degrade over time. This can contribute to equipment malfunctions and failures. This is why you want to have an electrical maintenance program. Keep wires, outlets and electrical boxes dry, tight and clean of dust and debris. Inspect things frequently and document the results. Look for excessive wear and tear and make repairs. You may want to use infrared thermal cameras to identify hot spots in the electrical system. These are potential ignition sources.
Put Safety Mechanisms in Place
Put machine guards in place so that saw blades never run unless intentionally activated. Have machine guards set up so that a worker’s hands cannot come into contact with the saw blade. For example, you could install sanding belts on lathes so that operators can work without their hands being near the moving parts.
Teach your employees to never remove machine guards that are there for their safety. Inspect equipment periodically, since an improperly adjusted saw blade might not return to its proper position and thus pose a risk to someone’s fingers. Have equipment fully de-energized during cleaning or repair so that it cannot be accidentally activated during those times. This should be done via lockout/tagout procedures. This prevents someone from getting hurt because they reached for wood when the saw was turned off but it was still coating or idling. Have everyone trained in how to safely work around equipment before they step on the shop floor, and provide refresher training every few years. Don’t let anyone work around equipment they are not licensed or qualified to use.
Provide Protective Equipment and Clothing
Anyone using power tools needs protective gloves that fit, as well as protective shoes. Face masks and eyewear may be legally required for employees as well. Provide the necessary protective equipment for those doing hot work like grinding or welding. Ensure that hair is pulled back, and people are wearing clothes that provide a level of protection. You may need to provide masks or breathing apparatus if you can’t adequately ventilate areas where glue is used.
The risks in wood-working facilities are real. However, you can take steps to keep everyone and everything safe. And you can’t afford not to mitigate these risks.