I am definitely not perfect but I always try to take any extra safety precautions that I can think of before doing any potentially dangerous tasks, and you should too. When I sit down and think about it I realize I have a lot to lose and there is no shortcut or money saving tactic that is worth risking my health.
So where am I going with this? I think that shop safety is UNDER TAUGHT and UNDER VALUED.
Stores like Harbor Freight and Northern Tool in the US have made specialized tooling normally reserved for trained professionals available and affordable to the layperson (inexperienced). Don’t get me wrong, this is GREAT but how many people actually read the manual and safety precautions when they get home with a new tool? How many of the safety precautions are written well or included at all (ahem, I’m looking at you imported items)? Who teaches shop safety to the general public?
It is because of these reasons that we need to be vigilant about making sure we take precautions to be sure we are educating ourselves on using tools and performing tasks in the safest way possible. Even for seemingly simple stuff like yard work and household repairs. I recently came across a vendor that had a pretty cool info-graphic that I wanted to share. Upon talking to them further they offered to do an even more in depth write-up on some basic easy to follow rules of thumb for safety while using metalworking tools which is included below!
I wasn’t paid a dime by LeClaire for sharing this. I am simply passionate about educating the end user of tools to prevent future home, shop, and farm accidents. It is nice to see a manufacturer that shares this same passion.
I want ALL of you to go home safely in one piece back to your family EVERY DAY.
How To Safely Use Metal Fabrication Tools
Visit factory or commercial fabrication operations, and you’ll see they’re obsessive about safety. That’s mainly because looking after your workforce is the right thing to do. It’s also because the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or the state equivalent, comes down hard on businesses that cut corners on safety. However, your home fab shop isn’t subject to the same rules or oversight. When you’re working at home, your safety — and that of anyone else who might pass through — is solely your responsibility.
Working with sheet metal, angle iron and fabrication equipment offers lots of opportunities for accidents. In the sections that follow, you’ll learn about the common causes of injuries and find some practical advice for avoiding them.
Common Causes of Accidents
Accidents can happen in many ways, but they almost always result from mistakes or omissions in one of these three areas:
• Improper tool usage
• Poor material handling practices
• Inadequate barriers (or none at all)
If you’ve done much fabrication work, you almost certainly know how to use tools such as chop saws, angle grinders and welding torches without hurting yourself. The problem is, though, there are times when we all rush or get distracted. That’s when accidents happen.
Material handling injuries usually stem from poor lifting technique or forgetting that cut metal has sharp edges and burrs. Dropping heavy objects on your foot could also go under this heading.
Barriers split into two broad types:
1. The guards you wear/guards that are on machines to stop things from flying up and hitting you
2. Devices that keep shop visitors away from potentially dangerous equipment
For both types, the best way of avoiding injuries is to use them!
Tips for Using Tools Safely
Here are five elements of which you must be aware. Let’s go through them:
• Eye safety: Wear glasses bearing the Z87 mark. This means they’re impact-resistant. Don’t rely on them alone, though, because dust and particulates can get around the sides. That’s why a face shield is essential if you’re doing something like angle grinding. (A face shield protects the rest of your handsome visage, too.) Of course, you wouldn’t think of welding without wearing a proper welding mask, would you?
• Hearing protection: Hearing damage builds up slowly over time. You can minimize this by wearing earplugs or preferably ear defenders.
• Foot protection: Buy and wear proper industrial safety shoes. The modern ones are surprisingly light and comfortable, and they’ll keep your toes safe when you drop something.
• Hand protection: Wear appropriate gloves. They’ll prevent cuts from handling sharp metal and burns from hot surfaces, (just-cut metal is often very hot). When welding, always wear suitable gloves.
2. Handle tools and workpieces with care.
Watch for sharp edges because they can lead to cuts that might get infected. When lifting, bend at the knees and don’t overdo it: either use some kind of crane or lift, or get help. Hernias are no fun at all!
3. Inspect your tools before starting work.
Worn or damaged cutting blades can fail without warning, and faulty equipment may behave in ways you didn’t expect. For example, make sure grinding discs are free of cracks or notches before you turn on your angle grinder. If guards are provided, make sure you know how to use them and remember that rotating blades take a while to come to a stop.
4. Pay attention!
Make sure there’s no loose clothing, hair or jewelry that can get caught in rotating machinery and remember that you can’t always tell when a workpiece is hot.
5. Know how to use your tools safely and put that knowledge into practice.
If you’re not sure how to use a welder or tube bender, don’t just guess, find out! There are countless manuals and online videos — or, better still, take a class.
Never, Ever Rush
No one wants to have an accident, but they happen. In many cases, people are in too much of a hurry to find their PPE or inspect the tool before they set to work, and that leads to accidents. Slow down and work safely.
Author Bio: Zach Van Dyke is one of LeClaire Manufacturing’s inside sales representatives who has been with LeClaire for seven years. He dedicates a portion of his time at LeClaire to its safety committee, a role he takes seriously. Beginning as a production worker, then a shipping clerk, and now sales — he has a broad perspective of safety in a manufacturing setting.
I hope this was helpful. This article was general in nature and is far from all-inclusive but was created to get you thinking about your own safety. Simple Google searches with ‘How to properly use <name a tool here>’ will net you with immediate and actionable articles and videos on an as needed basis, but it is you has to initiate the search. Now YOU, go outside and (safely) work on something!!
Feedback? Questions? Comments? Post below!!