Hazard Assessment for Woodworking Site

Author- | Posted- | Updated: March 12, 2017 |

Hazard Assessment for Woodworking

Woodworking sites are full of dangerous hazards. Unless proper safeguards are put in place, woodworking sites will become grounds for operational injuries too frequently. It is because of the machinery that is involved in the process of woodworking. There are fast moving machines with sharp blades used for cutting and shaping wood. The entire place is full of such sharp and fast moving objects that any kind of distraction or mistake can become a cause of injury. It is why protections or safeguards are absolutely essential at such places. To err is human and despite all the attention, one or other mistake may occur. 

At a woodworking spot, any such mistake may spell a major disaster leading to amputation of body parts. Incidents happen commonly at such places and the most common reason for which accidents happen at woodworking shops is management failure to adopt proper and adequate safety measures. However, several times, it is also the mistake of the workers. Despite the availability of the safeguards and safety equipment, several times woodworkers neglect them and then the result is injury. Workers’ safety is the responsibility of the management mainly.

So, supervisors must ensure that the workers wear proper safety equipment and protection gear. Since in such scenarios workers are required to perform the same work daily, it may also lead to overconfidence. Workers grow habituated and lose attention of the safety procedures and equipment. Supervisors must ensure this does not happen and that workers pay close attention to safety. Alertness is necessary, otherwise accidents are bound to happen. Common injuries that the woodworkers suffer include laceration, amputation, severed fingers, and blindness.

There are two categories of health hazards associated with woodworking. They are safety hazards and health hazards.    Some of the common safety hazards found at woodworking spots are:

  • Machine hazards
    – Point of operation
    – Rotary and reciprocating movements
    – In-running nip points (pinch points)
  • Kickbacks
  • Flying chips, material
  • Tool projection
  • Fire and explosion hazards
  • Electrical hazards

Safety hazards are dangerous and become the cause of immediate injury.  If the metal framework of a circular saw is not grounded properly it might become energized and then electrocute an employee by chance. If workers’ hands get in contact with the saw blade, it may accidentally chop his fingers off.  Flying material also constitutes a significant hazard since chips being throws from the moving saws can get into eyes.  Eyes and face are particularly at risk and so the workers must cover their face with protective equipment where they are exposed to flying chips and wooden splinters. They must wear face shields, eye glasses or helmets as required, to protect themselves from being exposed to dangerous material flying from machines.

There are several pieces of woodworking equipment like routers, shapers, and molders-employ rotating cutter heads with multiple knives. Cutter heads can become unbalanced if they are not mounted properly or if they have broken knives or if they are poorly mounted. It is critical that the knives remained secured to the fast moving cutter heads and for that the cutter head must be balanced.   Apart from it, the situation can get dangerous if the wrong tool is mounted on a cutter head or if the tool is used at a speed higher than it was designed to operate at. In running nip points also give rise to similar risks because body or body parts may get caught in between these nip points and crushed or severed.

Engineering and work practice controls are considered the best way to manage the machine hazards. Engineering controls mean changing the work environment or machines to make the environment safer from the employees. Work practice controls mean changing the style of working of the workers so that employees are safer while doing their jobs. If it is not possible or if the engineering and work practice controls cannot provide sufficient protection, the best way is to provide additional protection through the use of protective equipment. The personal protective equipment that can be used to protect the employees include a wide variety of devices and garments. Some of the examples are respirators, goggles, safety shields, hard hats, gloves, earmuffs and earplugs.

The health hazards at woodworking sites include the chemical hazards, high level of noise, wood dust, saw dust and excessive level of noise or vibrations. Wood dust, saw dust etc. can cause allergic reactions if the exposure is long. Saw dust has been classified as a carcinogen. Chemicals like coatings and finishes contain chemicals that can affect the central; nervous system and can cause headache, dizziness etc. There can be immediate as well as long term effects of these health hazards. High level of noise can affect the hearing ability of the workers temporarily or even permanently. Noise can also hinder the workers’ ability in other ways, including affecting their cardiovascular and endocrine systems. Prolonged exposure to turpentine can cause irritation of eyes and skin or even cause skin and bladder and damage. There are several other problems too that can be attributed to noise including high blood pressure and stress. Workers must use earmuffs and earplugs to protect themselves from noise. They should also wear appropriate protective equipment to protect their skin, eyes and ears.

Vibration can be another source of problem for the workers. Tools whether handheld or stationary emit vibrations that can cause   white fingers or hand arm vibrations syndrome. The danger becomes greater when proper damping techniques are not used or when the machines are not maintained. In case of white fingers, prolonged exposure to vibration results in the collapse of the blood vessels of the fingers. Oxygen supply to the skin and muscles tissues is severed that leads to their eventual death. HAVS is an even advanced condition that can affect the entire arm or hand may get affected due to repeated exposure to vibration. At its early stage the workers may feel numbness and tingling in his fingers and whiteness at the tips in times of cold. The numbness attacks may become more frequent as the problem advances. Employers must provide their employees with anti-vibration gloves to protect them from vibration.  

Sources: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/woodworking_hazards/osha3157.html

https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/woodworking/health_vibration.html

Abhijeet Pratap

Abhijeet has been blogging on educational topics and business research since 2016. He graduated with a Hons. in English literature from BRABU and an MBA from the Asia-Pacific Institute of Management, New Delhi. He likes to blog and share his knowledge and research in business management, marketing, literature and other areas with his readers.