Safety in the Workshop

As a woodworker, you face many more safety issues than the average worker. You risk the loss of limbs every day. For this reason, first aid knowledge is essential to all woodworkers. When you work with high-powered tools, you should always be prepared in the case of an injury -- large or small.

The majority of woodworking injuries happen to the hands. The body has a natural reaction to an injured hand. Pay attention next time, and you'll note that a person with an injured hand will cover it with their other hand, put pressure on the wound and hold both hands to their stomach.

At some point, you're going to have to look and see what has happened. Sit down, take deep breaths, and be ready to assess and treat the situation.

Cuts and Scrapes
Because of the risk of infection, it is important that you pay attention to even small injuries like cuts and scrapes. It may be a hassle, but it is worth your while to stop what you're doing and thoroughly clean your injury. Keep Betadine soap in your workshop for just this type of incident. You may also want to apply antibiotic ointment and cover the wound with a dry gauze pad.

Deep Cuts and Lacerations
While sometimes you can treat lacerations as you would a small cut, they frequently require a doctor's attention. When assessing the wound, look for signs that a doctor's visit is necessary. Signs include spurting blood, incision depth of more than a quarter inch, or the visibility of muscle, fat or tendon. You should also seek professional help if the wound is numb, as you may have damaged a nerve.

Bone Breaks
Once again, the most likely bone to be broken in a workshop is the finger, usually by a hammer or a nail gun. Signs of a broken bone include extreme pain, swelling, and bruising. You'll also know you broke a bone if you can't move the attached joint. If you're not sure if it's a break, see a doctor anyway. Broken fingers need to be splinted in order to heal properly.

Amputations
When dealing with electric saws, accidental amputation is a real risk. If you cut off a finger or a limb, the first step is to control the bleeding with pressure. Wrap something clean around the wound, and hold on tightly. An ice pack and elevating the wound above the level of your heart will also help to control bleeding.

Once you have done this, call 9-1-1 and request an ambulance. While you are losing blood you are not capable of transporting yourself whether you feel able or not. If you are able, collect the amputated finger or limb and bring it with you. If not, direct the paramedics as to where they can find it.

Eye Injuries
Eye injuries are very common in workshop settings. You should always wear protective eyewear, but if something gets in your eye, be prepared to deal with it. Never poke at your eye with an unclean finger. Instead, inspect it in a mirror. If the debris is on the surface, gently wash it out. If it is embedded in your eye, seek professional help immediately.

-- Bailey Stoler

External Links:
Gauze Pads
Antibiotic Ointment
Protective Eyewear
Wound Care

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