ChetlovesMer

The safety incident that changed my life.

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I guess I started woodworking when I was about 7 years old. I don’t know why I took an interest in it as nobody in my family was a woodworker. But I asked for and got some tools, and started building stuff. I’m starting the post this way to explain that I didn’t have a mentor, so I kind of figured stuff out on my own for a long time. I think a mentor is so valuable not only to help you learn techniques, but to help you be safe as well.

In my woodworking life, here is a list of my boo-boos:

When I was about 10 I drove a nail through the fleshy part of my left hand. Still have the scar.

At about 14 I gashed out a spot between the 2nd and 3rd knuckle on my left hand using a hand saw. (In truth there was some horseplay in the shop, which today would be unacceptable.) Several stitches later, I still have that scar too.

At about 17 I had a sheet of plywood slip and leave a deep scar on my left shin. Today I still have no feeling in that spot.

In my early 20’s I had a grinder incident that left a nasty scar which today is mostly hidden by my wedding ring.

On my 30th birthday, I was opening a new circular saw my wife gave me for my birthday. We were jovial and laughing until while cutting some zip-ties off the saw I stabbed myself with my trusty pocket-knife in the fleshy part of my left hand between the thumb and 1st finger. 9 stitches later I have a scar on my left hand. It looks like the Nike symbol.

5 years ago, I took a dime sized piece of my right middle finger off with my jointer. The push-block was literally a foot away when it happened. That was my most stupid incident.

Shortly after the jointer incident I had a chisel slip off an improperly secured work-piece and stabbed myself in the right thigh. It took 8 stitches to close that wound.

At that point my wife nearly made me give up wood working. We just started working on a family and I had to promise to make every effort to work safer. I guess I’m a slow learner, but I eventually got the message.

Today, if anything I am over cautious. Now I build jigs to hold work-pieces. If I have the choice between an operation that takes 10 seconds, but is in some way unsafe and one that takes 20 minutes but is safe. I invest the 20 minutes.

****** YOU MAY WANT TO STOP READING THIS POST HERE IF YOU HAVE A WEAK STOMACH*******

But it was not any of the stitches I got. It was not even the conversation with my wife that changed me. It was an incident with my friend who bought a new cabinet saw. Almost 5 years ago one of my friends ordered a new cabinet saw. 2 other friends and I showed up at his house for the big delivery. 3 guys from the tool supplier delivered the saw. 2 of the guys left right away. 1 guy stayed back to help set it up and tune it and what not. During the tuning process, this guy butterflies open his right hand on the spinning saw blade. No lie! My buddy, the guy who had ordered the saw, actually fainted!

So there the rest of us are, watching this guy, who is supposed to be “the expert” clutching his hand. He was trying to hold the top and bottom of his hand together. He was bleeding everywhere. One of my friends had the where-with-all to shut the saw off. There was blood everywhere. It was so surreal.

One of us stayed with my fainted friend. Two of us took this guy to the hospital. Later we found out his name is Mike. The hospital ended up contacting his family. We hung out until his wife arrived at the hospital. We told her what happened she was crying. I want to say it was awful, but instead it was almost dreamlike. It wouldn’t be until a couple weeks later we found out Mike had several hours of surgery. He was lucky. One of the best surgeons for that kind of thing happened to be at the hospital that day. I’ve talked to Mike a few times since then. He works for a local tool dealer. Today, 5 years later, he has full movement in his right hand. He has an impressive scar and he has some lost some feeling in that hand. I don’t remember how long he told me the operation was, but it was long.

That night I didn’t sleep at all. Having seen my own blood so many times I didn’t think it would bother me. But seeing this blood from a guy I don’t even know. Man it was weird. Even today I wonder if it was our fault. Mike had to demo and tune the saw with four really excited woodworkers lurking around him. I mean when it happened we were all laughing and joking, then suddenly everything changed and my buddy fainted. I don’t tell this story very often. But it changed my life. I am a different woodworker now. I don’t take risks. I use my safety equipment. I think before I do something. Then I think again. Then usually I will think again, before I do it.

Anyway, that’s my woodworking safety story. I don’t know if it is meant to inspire anyone, or help anyone, but even reliving it to write this post makes me a little queasy. I’m not even sure if I’m writing this post for you or for me.

So enjoy this hobby guys. It is one of the greatest uses of time there is. It can be so rewarding. But please be safe. I don’t care which pieces of safety equipment you use or do not use. I think your brain is the most important piece of safety equipment. USE IT! I mean there was a splitter on the saw when Mike sliced his hand open, but the blade guard was flipped up. I don’t know if it would have made a difference either way. But I ask that you take your time and think about what you are doing. Saving a few seconds is never worth the risk. Chances are you will get away with it. But you just never know.

Be safe. Sorry for the downer post. I promise the rest of my posts will be more upbeat.

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Good post Chet

I'm sure we all have, or know someone with a similar story.

The workshop is an inherently risky place to be, so awareness of what the risks are and how to mitigate them should be at the fore front of everyone's mind.

The fact that you and your friends were enjoying the experience of the new saw may or may not have been a direct cause of the accident. You may never know.

But what I will say for certain is that there was a chain of events that lead to the misshap,that could have been broken at anytime,that would have resulted in a different outcome.

I fly airplanes for a living, and the aviation industry has volumes of accident reports that show how many human factors lead to an accident.

Mitigating risk in the workshop can be as simple as wearing ear protection. Your saying yeah no kidding. But your not just protecting your ears. Fatigue from a noisy enviroment can be dissaterous.

The point being is that every step we take towards mitigating one risk, has a trickle down effect in our overall saftey.

I was the safety officer for a company I used to work for so this is right up my alley.

Good to hear that the end result was positive. And you and your friends no doubt learned from your experience.

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I guess I started woodworking when I was about 7 years old. I don’t know why I took an interest in it as nobody in my family was a woodworker. But I asked for and got some tools, and started building stuff. I’m starting the post this way to explain that I didn’t have a mentor, so I kind of figured stuff out on my own for a long time. I think a mentor is so valuable not only to help you learn techniques, but to help you be safe as well.

In my woodworking life, here is a list of my boo-boos:

When I was about 10 I drove a nail through the fleshy part of my left hand. Still have the scar.

At about 14 I gashed out a spot between the 2nd and 3rd knuckle on my left hand using a hand saw. (In truth there was some horseplay in the shop, which today would be unacceptable.) Several stitches later, I still have that scar too.

At about 17 I had a sheet of plywood slip and leave a deep scar on my left shin. Today I still have no feeling in that spot.

In my early 20’s I had a grinder incident that left a nasty scar which today is mostly hidden by my wedding ring.

On my 30th birthday, I was opening a new circular saw my wife gave me for my birthday. We were jovial and laughing until while cutting some zip-ties off the saw I stabbed myself with my trusty pocket-knife in the fleshy part of my left hand between the thumb and 1st finger. 9 stitches later I have a scar on my left hand. It looks like the Nike symbol.

5 years ago, I took a dime sized piece of my right middle finger off with my jointer. The push-block was literally a foot away when it happened. That was my most stupid incident.

Shortly after the jointer incident I had a chisel slip off an improperly secured work-piece and stabbed myself in the right thigh. It took 8 stitches to close that wound.

At that point my wife nearly made me give up wood working. We just started working on a family and I had to promise to make every effort to work safer. I guess I’m a slow learner, but I eventually got the message.

Today, if anything I am over cautious. Now I build jigs to hold work-pieces. If I have the choice between an operation that takes 10 seconds, but is in some way unsafe and one that takes 20 minutes but is safe. I invest the 20 minutes.

****** YOU MAY WANT TO STOP READING THIS POST HERE IF YOU HAVE A WEAK STOMACH*******

But it was not any of the stitches I got. It was not even the conversation with my wife that changed me. It was an incident with my friend who bought a new cabinet saw. Almost 5 years ago one of my friends ordered a new cabinet saw. 2 other friends and I showed up at his house for the big delivery. 3 guys from the tool supplier delivered the saw. 2 of the guys left right away. 1 guy stayed back to help set it up and tune it and what not. During the tuning process, this guy butterflies open his right hand on the spinning saw blade. No lie! My buddy, the guy who had ordered the saw, actually fainted!

So there the rest of us are, watching this guy, who is supposed to be “the expert” clutching his hand. He was trying to hold the top and bottom of his hand together. He was bleeding everywhere. One of my friends had the where-with-all to shut the saw off. There was blood everywhere. It was so surreal.

One of us stayed with my fainted friend. Two of us took this guy to the hospital. Later we found out his name is Mike. The hospital ended up contacting his family. We hung out until his wife arrived at the hospital. We told her what happened she was crying. I want to say it was awful, but instead it was almost dreamlike. It wouldn’t be until a couple weeks later we found out Mike had several hours of surgery. He was lucky. One of the best surgeons for that kind of thing happened to be at the hospital that day. I’ve talked to Mike a few times since then. He works for a local tool dealer. Today, 5 years later, he has full movement in his right hand. He has an impressive scar and he has some lost some feeling in that hand. I don’t remember how long he told me the operation was, but it was long.

That night I didn’t sleep at all. Having seen my own blood so many times I didn’t think it would bother me. But seeing this blood from a guy I don’t even know. Man it was weird. Even today I wonder if it was our fault. Mike had to demo and tune the saw with four really excited woodworkers lurking around him. I mean when it happened we were all laughing and joking, then suddenly everything changed and my buddy fainted. I don’t tell this story very often. But it changed my life. I am a different woodworker now. I don’t take risks. I use my safety equipment. I think before I do something. Then I think again. Then usually I will think again, before I do it.

Anyway, that’s my woodworking safety story. I don’t know if it is meant to inspire anyone, or help anyone, but even reliving it to write this post makes me a little queasy. I’m not even sure if I’m writing this post for you or for me.

So enjoy this hobby guys. It is one of the greatest uses of time there is. It can be so rewarding. But please be safe. I don’t care which pieces of safety equipment you use or do not use. I think your brain is the most important piece of safety equipment. USE IT! I mean there was a splitter on the saw when Mike sliced his hand open, but the blade guard was flipped up. I don’t know if it would have made a difference either way. But I ask that you take your time and think about what you are doing. Saving a few seconds is never worth the risk. Chances are you will get away with it. But you just never know.

Be safe. Sorry for the downer post. I promise the rest of my posts will be more upbeat.

Chet-- Great story that supports why we all need to think before we act. I appreciate reading stories like yours. It makes me respect ALL my tools more and more---hand and power tools.

I lead a patrol of Webelos scouts and we are making keepsake boxes. One of the operations requires the use of the drill press. Everyone seemed to be cautiously excited to use big boy woodworking machines. I et the work pieces up in a jig to sucre them and showed everyone proper ways to use the DP. Only one scout said he did not want to use the machine. Of course he was not forced to use it. I asked him why and he said he was too afraid of it. This led into a quick talk on how every tool in my shop has the potential to cause serious injury. The key to remaining safe is to RESPECT ALL THE TOOLS. Having fear of anything is only going to lead to a bad outcome.

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Chet-- Great story that supports why we all need to think before we act. I appreciate reading stories like yours. It makes me respect ALL my tools more and more---hand and power tools.

I lead a patrol of Webelos scouts and we are making keepsake boxes. One of the operations requires the use of the drill press. Everyone seemed to be cautiously excited to use big boy woodworking machines. I et the work pieces up in a jig to sucre them and showed everyone proper ways to use the DP. Only one scout said he did not want to use the machine. Of course he was not forced to use it. I asked him why and he said he was too afraid of it. This led into a quick talk on how every tool in my shop has the potential to cause serious injury. The key to remaining safe is to RESPECT ALL THE TOOLS. Having fear of anything is only going to lead to a bad outcome.

Fear is useful too up to a point. It makes you hyper aware of what is happening and can focus you. As long as you don't let the fear freeze you into inaction, it can be very useful.

I fully admit that I get a little jolt of fear every time I start up my router, jointer, circular saw or tablesaw (really most of my power tools but those three are ones that my mind has determined can screw me up more then the rest) Just enough to give me a little mental whack to pay attention then lock it down to do what I have to do.

So controlled fear is actually good to my mind... it's indifference that really can bite you.

-Jim

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Downer post or not, if one rethink before a cut save a finger than post away.

I have heard of loads of people getting hurt on table saw, but never had the displeasure of seeing or even knowing anyone who has been hurt by one. As a direct result (maybe), I don't fear my table saw enough. It's a "go to" tool for me. I do have a huge amount of respect for what it can do. Enough respect that no one else uses my table saw but me. I will call myself lucky. Don't throw bricks.

I have seen circular saw cause major injuries.

I have a good scar from a hand grinder accident.

Used to collect and trade knives so I have a few scars from knives and blades.

My shop scare came from a router table. A piece of wood started to kick back. When I was trying to figured out how to shut down the router it exploded. Literally exploded. Two seconds and the safety glasses saved at least one of my eyes. Busted my lip and scratched up my face pretty bad.

I tell the story all the time, because remembering might save mine or somebody's finger.

If a depressing post save an injury keep posting.

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It may sound weird but for the first year I was woodworking I had pictures of accidents from the main tools posted on the wall directly behind each tool and I think thats why "touch wood" I have yet to have any major injury other than requiring a band-aid from skinning my knuckles or the like. I must say out of all the pictures the router injury were the worst as it let behind mince meat the others at least did a clean cut that could be reattached.

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Being aware of your surroundings is very important. I always discuss safety when I bring someone in the shop especially when I bring kids into the shop. I stress that if they want to fool around to go outside to fool around. I know the kids hate when I start them out with hand tools. Until they realize its just as easy to get hurt with them as well. Girls tend to listen better than boys do in my opinion. I tell everyone in my shop and myself that when you hear that little voice say THIS IS GOING TO HURT TO STOP DOING EVERYTHING until they can find a different way of doing something. When we get complacent is when accidents occur even those little boo boo's add up.

I admit that I don't use my table saw blade guard but do incorporate push blocks and jigs. I try to be safety minded whenever I'm using anything that can hurt me even in the kitchen. So talking safety no matter how redundant it may be helps us to remain aware. My motto is turn on your brain before turning the key to the shop. Thanks for the thread Chet..

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EVERY time I turn on a power tool, I say to myself "POWER ON!!!" I posted my kickback accident a couple years back on the first forum. I was home alone and the piece knocked me out for second. If it had had much more mass or had been sharper, I'd be dead. I don't fear my tools, but I respect them for the powerful machines they are. I still have a decent scar that reminds me to pay attention.

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This post reminds me of the story of my stepson Vincient. He lives in Colorado near his dad. We have not seen him in years.

He was in the Army reserves, went to Iraq and Afghanastan. He survived two tours and came back to Colorado.

A couple of years ago we found out he had an accident with a table saw. He cut off his thumb and 2 fingers on his right hand.

I have a healthy respect for my own table saw and miter saw and have the goal of not making the same mistake myself.

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Good post. Can't have enough safety reminders.

I remember at very young age one of my dad's helpers hacking off a couple fingers on the TS in the shop. My dad left the blood stains on the floor as a "safety reminder".

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Good post Chet. I have seen something similar myself years ago when I was in 7th grade shop, except it was the shop teacher! He cut off half his hand on the tablesaw in front of the entire class! That is something that definitely sticks with you. especially when you watch someone who was always preaching about how 'aware' you needed to be around the tablesaw not follow his own sermons. To this day, every time I am around a tablesaw I cringe slightly whenever it starts up. I have never really been comfortable around them since then and, to be honest, I have never used one myself. I definitely have more than a healthy fear of them but I could use one without completely freaking out. I have seen far worse things before and since that time that make that incident seem like nothing, but those have nothing to do with woodworking. They also still have enough of an effect on me that it's beyond painful (or whatever word you want to use to describe a traumatic incident) to remember while the tablesaw thing just make me shudder a little. :huh:

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great post.

I had a kick back on my TS a few years ago. I somehow didn't cut off my fingers when I turned counter clockwise to avoid it and drug my hands in the direction of the blade that was raised much too high for what I was cutting. The piece came back and hit my in the groin area. I then grabbed at my cut and the off cut came back and hit me in the thigh. I literally took a step back - saw that I had my fingers, pulled my pants down to make sure everything was still attached, turned off the saw and went inside visibly shaken. Bruise and swelling already happening. Later that day - I went out side, pulled the never installed before guard off of the dusty shelf where it was put the day I bought my saw. I put that guard on and it has never come off since that day. If I can't make the cut with the guard on - I find another method to do do it. No more dado head etc.

I also now use a face shield during cuts on the router table, table saw and bandsaw. I have had a number of pieces explode on the router and I just can't risk becoming seriously injured. I respect each and every tool.

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As I am sitting here in the hospital Starbucks waiting visit my father-in-law in ccu, I find myself wondering where the creepy old guy sitting next to me lost his thumb. I am digging up this no-so-old post to tell you what stupid thing I did yesterday, and to kill time.

I called a friend over to help me hang the panels in my garage. I almost always work alone. People just slow me down. But anyway, we are laughing and carrying on. I need to cut about a half inch off either side of the 5 x 8 panel. Table saw is covered in crap and that's a big panel so I call for the Makita left blade circular saw with its rip fence. I have owned many circular saws. Probably 15 have died a firey death. I just used them until there is just nothing left for them to give. Then I buy another. Never ending cycle of disposability. That said I probably have not used it in about four years. Little underpowered cordless models have taken over my garage. At some point in the blade changing I took my gloves off. I set the fence and pulled trigger. For some stupid reason I had one hand on the handle and my left hand beside it gripping the blade guard. This stupid move left my stupid finger middle finger resting against the blade. When I pulled the trigger I was fast enough to move my finger with no injury, but it was really close. I finished the cut and asked my friend if he saw that. He said he wondered why I was holding it like that, but figured that I, of all people, knew what I was doing.

I have taught many people the correct techniques for using this tool. I have seen digits removed, but have never come that close to injuring myself with a circular saw. I have made literally thousands of cut with a circular saw. I don't know how bad I could have been hurt maybe a scratch, maybe it could have been pulled inside the blade guard and then game over. I guess the moral of the story is your never good enough not to be stupid.

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I often wonder how many times I could have lost a digit on the days I quit working see I dont know if its just me but I on occasion get those days were even such mundane tasks done literally thousands of times like as an example using a pry bar to separate some reclaimed lumber that is nailed together, first I smack my knuckle ripping the skin back, then I hit my thumb with the hammer or some how jab myself with a nail etc I have learned to just call it quits because something in my gut just tells me If you decide to turn on any power tools today your gonna get hurt so I just pack it up. or Ill do something that with minimal risk like clean shop,maintain tools etc and even then on occasion the mishaps still continue to happen like skin my hand on the blade,or bang my head reaching to pick up a screw I just dropped for the 3rd time etc lol

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I have taught many people the correct techniques for using this tool. I have seen digits removed, but have never come that close to injuring myself with a circular saw. I have made literally thousands of cut with a circular saw. I don't know how bad I could have been hurt maybe a scratch, maybe it could have been pulled inside the blade guard and then game over. I guess the moral of the story is your never good enough not to be stupid.

Thanks for the story, Chad. This is a great example of why confidence in your ability to be vigilant when doing a woodworking procedure is false security. You never know when something will slip by your vigilance. Things happen.

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Proper knowledge of how to use a tool and what tool to use I think is the start of safety around that tool. I had an employee that I had trained to upholster furniture a couple years ago that decided he needed to cut 1" off of a board that was 10" long and 1" wide. I had told them there was no reason for them to use the saws in my shop and if they needed to, to find me and have me do it. He had never used saws before. I was in my office and heard my table saw start up. I got up and was headed out there to chastise for not finding me. He didn't use a miter gauge or anything, tried to free hand this cross cut through the table saw. All but severed 3 fingers, and my miter saw was less than 3 feet away. Lack of knowledge and a bit of over confidence got the better of him. He was lucky and only has a scar. I need to get lock outs for my saws, especially now that my kids are getting old enough to be curious. The incident scared him away from ever wanting to learn how to use shop tools, which is to bad.

I use a lot of different kinds of staple guns in upholstering, and I have put 16 gauge, 2" staples into my hand numerous times. I haven't for a while now that I am learning to just be patient and take a few extra seconds to look at what I am doing.

We can all learn from our own mistakes and what others have done. Thanks for sharing your stories.

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