Health and Safety News

Occupational health and safety news and guidance

Is your wood workshop safe?

image of a man working with woodAccording to a report published in December 2012 by the HSE, the major accident rate for wood-workers is 17% above the national average for all kinds of machine workers. Such incidents could cost your business huge amounts of compensation, and further problems whilst you wait for a valued member of your staff to recover from industrial trauma. Nearly half of these accidents (46%) are caused by the incorrect operation of machinery in the wood-workshop. What are the best procedures that can be implemented in your business to ensure that your workers, who are perhaps your most vital asset, are always well protected?

Eye protection

Although many pieces of wood-working equipment come with safety guards, there is still the possibility that chips and fine slivers of wood can fly out at fairly high speeds from cutting and sanding machinery, which can cause damage to the eyes. When working with any industrial equipment, users should always wear goggles that wrap around the face protecting the whole eye and socket from all angles.

Dust Collection

When using saws, lathes, sanders and other wood working equipment, this machinery can often produce a fine wood dust. Not only is this dust harmful if inhaled, but it is also highly flammable. Concentrations of wood dust in the air can explode if they come into contact with a heat source, such as an overheating electric motor on a piece of wood-working machinery. According to the Health and Safety executive, following this list of precautions can prevent dangerous situations from occurring with such dust.

1.)    Use processes that create as little dust as possible.

2.)    Install proper ventilation, and where appropriate use extractor fans to remove dust from the atmosphere.

3.)    Always ensure that the wood working space is as clean and free from wood-dust as possible. Where necessary instigate a cleaning schedule that uses vacuuming equipment.

4.)    Perform regular maintenance checks on all machinery, including exhausts to avoid situations where over heating could cause fires.

5.)    If adequate ventilation equipment is unavailable, then workers should be equipped with FFP2 (medium protection) masks to protect them from the health risks associated with the inhalation wood dust.

Ear protection

Industrial noise is considered to be one of the leading causes of hearing loss in people over 40 in the UK. Even the loud noises created by repetitive hammering can create problems in the ear-drum, not just noisy power tools and machinery. The best way of protecting a worker's hearing is through special ear-muffs that cover the whole ear. These should always totally cover the outside edge of the ear and fit flush to the side of the head. Glasses, hair and jewellery should not be allowed to interfere with the seal, and the headband should be suitably tense to keep the muffs in place.

Working Sensibly

Although modern business can often create a pressured working atmosphere, it is always important that workers maintain an attitude of patience when using any piece of industrial machinery. Many accidents that occur in the workplace can be avoided by adopting as a slow, methodical pace to machine work. Workers should be advised that if they become frustrated or rushed whilst using any kind of machine tool, then it's always best for them to take a break and regain their composure. This will allow them to return to the job with a clear head, cutting down on the risk of dangerous mistakes.

Use Machinery Correctly

It may be the case that a tool is not working a piece wood in the desired manner. Most sanders, cutters and other pieces of machinery do the work for the worker, and only a minimum amount of force is needed to guide wood through such machining processes. However, workers should be advised to stop working when an unusual or excessive amount of force is required to machine a piece of wood, and to check that there is nothing impeding the movement of any of the tool's parts. Anything from an incorrectly seated plate due to a malfunctioning saw blade could create a problem, so any discrepancy should be thoroughly investigated and where necessary fixed, allowing the machine to function in the normal manner.

image of an emergency stop buttonWork Shop Area

It is important that the environment in which the wood-working tools and machinery are contained is properly looked after. Simple measures, such as covering cables so there are no trip hazards on the floor, or ensuring that there is adequate light for all workers using machinery, allowing them to get a clear view of their job at all times, are easy ways to make the workplace much safer. It is also important to make sure that all machinery is clearly labelled with any important usage instructions, and that all emergency shut-down switches are also easily accessible and highlighted.

Loose Clothing and Jewellery

Certain things have no place within a wood-working environment where there are dangerous machines, and jewellery is definitely one of them. All rings, bracelets, watches and necklaces, anything from the neck down, should be removed before workers enter the workspace. There are many surfaces and items on which jewellery can catch that have the potential to cause immense damage to a worker's body. The same goes for clothing. Ideally a business will provide workers with overalls and gloves that will contain sleeves, ties, belts and trouser bottoms, preventing such items from becoming caught up with any wood-working machinery.

Ability Impairing Substances

It's a well known fact that certain substances, such as some cough medications and alcohol, can seriously interfere with reaction times and fine motor skills. It is incredibly important to maintain an attitude of vigilance in your work-place to ensure that anyone who has taken any kind of substance, which is known to impede performance, is not allowed to enter the working environment.


The most important thing to install into your wood workshop is an attitude of vigilance and respect for the procedures. Around 99.9% of the time this space will be accident and incident free. It is vital that during this time small procedural details, such as wearing eye-goggles and making sure that machines are used in the correct manner, are adhered to at all times. This creates an atmosphere where safety is almost second nature, so in the rare instances when a dangerous situation may occur, any damage is kept to a minimum.

This post was brought to you by the suppliers of the finest English and European hardwoods – Sutton Timber

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