A Two Minute Safety Tip

by Howard Van Valzah

As a veteran woodworker age 80 I have finally learned something I should have learned many years ago. Recently it became obvious to me that the majority of my woodworking injuries were on my left hand. The worst one was on my left thumb that wandered by itself into a table saw blade. Stitches didn't work so a skin graft was needed to complete the cure. One of the attached photos shows the thumb with the thumb nail sticking out way beyond the flesh. That happened four years ago.

Recently I have been working on some large projects and observed on completion that I had three band aids on my left hand. Nothing major like the thumb incident, but they were scratches, bangs, and nicks. And then the realization came that this seems to happen after every major project, and to a lesser extent on smaller jobs. Then I looked closely at the way my hands get work done. In most cases I found that my right hand is directing work to be done. That would make you think that the right hand might be injured more frequently. Further study showed that my left hand was often used to steady or hold the work piece putting it right in line to be struck by a slipped tool or anything else that might go wrong. The right hand guiding the tool was perfectly safe. (The hand eye coordination required to get the work performed was the responsibility of the right hand. The left hand was used in support but the operator's eye was concentrating on the performance of the right hand, leaving the left hand unattended.)

Now that I knew that, I began to be more conscious of the left hand, but still got nicks, dings, and scratches on it. It quickly became clear that it wasn't enough to just be aware of the problem and hope I could correct it. Just about that time I purchased a pair of bright yellow cut-resistant Kevlar gloves from Highland Woodworking. I didn't purchase them for use with power tools - I bought them with the idea of using them when I occasionally have to hand carve a piece of work. Seeing them sitting beside the workbench one day I decided to try something. I put one on my left hand (they are reversible) with the thought that the bright yellow color might alert me to be cautious, as does the yellow light on a traffic signal. It seems to be working because I have not yet had a scratch or ding on my left hand, but I did bang it hard once, but no blood, just a severe "ouchie". I would encourage others to wear a "yellow caution light" on their left hand as a reminder that it is an accident waiting to happen.

Do you have a safety tip that you would like to share? Email it to us at woodnews@highlandwoodworking.com and we might publish it in our next Wood News. Thanks for helping us to make each of your shops a little bit safer.

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