Construction workers and carpenters work with wood on a regular day-to-day basis, so the tools and procedures used in woodworking come as second nature to these professional, as do safety measures. But for hobbyists, woodworking can be deadly if safety rules aren't understood and followed religiously.
All the safety rules are just good common sense, but it's still a good idea to keep them in the forefront of your mind while working, no matter how experienced or accomplished you are.
Respect the power of power tools.
The first and most important safety rule is your attitude. Never, ever think that "an accident won't happen to me." A woodworking shop is not the place for a devil-may-care attitude, and over-confidence will only get you injured.
Take your time, pay attention to what you're doing, and be in control of the tools and the environment at all times. The most important piece of safety equipment you can use is your brain.
Always wear safety equipment.
Some tools require special safety equipment to be worn when you work with them. For very noisy tools such as planers and routers, you should always wear hearing protection. When applying varnish or special finishes, you should wear latex gloves. If you are working with chemicals that have strong or potentially toxic vapors, you must wear a respirator mask.
But the one piece of safety equipment you should ALWAYS wear when doing woodworking is a pair of safety glasses. You should put them on the moment you enter the shop, and leave them on until the moment you leave. You should never take chances with your eyesight, and safety glasses will protect your eyes from injury.
Disconnect electrical power before changing blades.
If you're changing a blade with the power still connected and your hand happens to slip or you drop the tool, you may just have to say goodbye to a finger. Turning the power switch off isn't good enough, because a switch can always be accidentally bumped.
You must unplug the tool from the outlet or the power strip before you begin removing the blade. Some woodworkers strap the tools required for blade removal to the power cord, as a reminder that they need to unplug the tool before changing the blade.
Always check for metal in the wood.
Be sure that the wood stock you're about to cut doesn't have any metal at all in it. Nails, screws, and even staples are a hazard if a rapidly whirling saw blade hits them. Not only can you damage the blade and the wood, you could also cause the saw to kick back and cause an injury.
If the blade cuts the metal it could release from the wood and become a hazardous projectile. If you are unsure about the condition of the wood you are preparing to cut, use a metal detector to be sure it is free from all metals.
Use sharp blades, and keep clear of them.
Using a dull cutting tool is equal to inviting trouble. You will have to work much harder, and therefore increase the risk of an accident, if you work with a saw blade that is not as sharp as it should be. A dull blade is much more likely to bind up or kick back.
Also, never put your hands near a moving blade, whether you are reaching for a piece of wood that has been cut off, clearing debris, or reaching for a power switch. Wait until the saw blade has completely stopped moving, and then reach over it.
Even better, use a piece of scrap wood or a stick to push the material away from the blade. Always keep in mind that power switches can be accidentally bumped and turn the blade back on in an instant. Just because the blade is not moving, don't get your hands too close to it.
Woodcraft activities will go much more smoothly and safely if you make an effort to avoid distractions that might take away the attention you should be paying to your work. Also, never attempt to use power equipment if you have been drinking or intoxicated, or if you are using medication that makes you drowsy or alters your judgment in any way.
Working with wood can be enjoyable and rewarding, and can leave you with masterpieces to display in your home or give as gifts. If you pay attention to safety and take your time with your projects, you will avoid injuries and accidents so that all the memories associated with your creations will be good ones.