Fair Woodworking

March 23, 2012

Safety overide

Filed under: Fair Woodworking & Hand Tool Blog,Strong opinion warning! — fairwoodworking @ 2:58 pm

Well, it seems I just can’t stay off the soap box. I may be too direct for some, but I feel it needs saying.

Last week I was confronted yet again of the folly of modern day safety standards.


I’ve said before that I’m not much of a “safety” guy, and I really should make it clear what I mean by that. I am actually quite passionate about being safe, but this P.C. garbage our society has accepted as safety makes me absolutely sick.

Last week the construction company I work for had a safety audit so that we could become a “Safety Certified” company. This required us to hire a consultant to put together the necessary paperwork to be approved.

The audit took place at our office where the auditor checked the paperwork that a consultant put together for us. We the Construction Company did almost nothing other than hire a consultant, and we are now certified “safe”?

We are a very safe company, but it has nothing to do with the paperwork…

But, this is not the soap box I meant to write about. (Climbs down from soapbox, steps around the “people texting in crosswalks without even looking both ways” soap box, and moves to correct one.)

Last week while talking to my wife, I saw her do something a little scary. We have a paper shredder that she uses regularly, and it needed emptying. While talking, I noticed that the shredder was laying upside down on the floor waiting to be put back on the bin. That’s fine, but what was not fine was the it was still plugged in.

I confronted her about it, and in the end she admitted that she didn’t think she needed to because there is a safety over ride switch that stops it from working when not properly seated on the basket.

I once took a very good management training course that taught me a very important concept in management. The biggest risk of having reliable staff is that you might take them for granted. If this happens they will in turn resent you, and can become the biggest trouble makers in the company.

In life when we take safety features for granted we make a very dangerous assumption that they will always protect us. Safety over rides can fail. They can jamb or simply break. If that happens and you have simply assumed it was working, you will be in very grave danger of injury, or even death.

Last year I took a class with a very well known woodworker. You all know the name, but me saying it adds nothing to the point I’m making. During a break the topic of Sawstop came up, and the instructor began to rave about what a great feature it was. He told us about how he’d gotten one the year before, and already it had saved one of his employees from losing a finger three times.


How is it a good thing, for someone so lethargic about keeping their hands out of harms way, that they trigger the fail safe THREE TIMES in one year?

Sawstop, may have saved his fingers, but has clearly allowed some very unsafe habits into his workflow. What happens if he ever runs into a Sawstop that is malfunctioning, or goes to work somewhere that does not have a Sawstop? I’d say he is guaranteed to lose a finger if that happens.

If you have a Sawstop in your workshop, or are thinking about getting one. Please consider this. Can you guarantee that anyone that uses the saw will never take the fail safe for granted? Can you guarantee that nobody will ever learn a bad safety habit as a result of it’s perceived added safety? If you can’t, I must respectfully suggest that you are adding to the global epidemic of unsafe woodworkers, and adding fuel to the fire of a legal system that rewards people for not knowing that the coffee was hot or that they shouldn’t iron their pants while they are wearing them.

Finally, if you ever find yourself at the door to my workshop. Please knock first and wait for me to let you in. My hand tools are sharp, and my power tools though well maintained, cut indiscriminately. I do not wish to be startled by your appearance and injure myself in the distraction. If a machine is running, I will not hear you knocking, so please wait until I turn it off so you can make your presence known.

If I let you in, please again, remember my tools are sharp. The guards you see on my tools are not there to protect you, they are there to protect the sharp edge from damage, so conduct yourself with care. You alone should be the only safety feature you should trust. If you cannot trust yourself to be safe, please stay out of my shop.

If  you cannot trust yourself to be safe, please stay out of your own shop as well.


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