Know When to Quit – Woodworking Safety Week 2012 – Part 1

Thinking back on nearly every close call and actual injury I’ve had in the shop, and there are more than I care to admit; I can almost always point to not being focused on what I’m working on. Usually it’s because I’m just too sleepy to be safe around power tools. With my work schedule that is an unfortunately common thing. The tough part is knowing when it’s time to hang up the apron and go take a nap and sometimes it’s even tougher to make yourself actually do that.

Here’s my little check list to help me know when it’s time to head inside for some rack ops.  Sorry, old Marine term. That’s what we used to call it when it was time for a nap without actually saying nap time cause that just doesn’t sound tough. I always called it sleepy time cause I didn’t care if people thought I was tough or not. Anyway….

1. How many caffeinated beverages have I had? If I have had more than one or two caffeinated wonders in this single shop session and I’m looking for more – chances are it’s nap time. If there is a growing pile of Rockstar cans in my cutoff bin, it’s definitely nap time.

2. Where did I put that? While it’s common for me to forget where I put my tape measure or a pencil, if I find that I am losing more things than usual then it’s nap time.

3. Fractions? We don’t need no stinking fractions! Occasionally, if I have been in the shop for several hours I try to do some random math in my head. Usually dividing fractions. Nothing that would require Einstein’s assistance, but also not something like what is half of 1/2? Not quite going to cut it. If it takes way too long and I forget the numbers I started with, well, then it’s nap time.

4. I can hear the garbage truck. Occasionally I find myself in ‘the zone’ and things are going well and I totally lose track of time and next thing I know, the sun is coming up. It’s not a common occurrence, but it does happen. I take that as a sign that I have been in the shop too damn long and it’s time for a nap. Especially if I have to take the kids to school.

5. I hear the same song again. If I am working alone in the shop then chances are I have the ipod connected to my shop radio and it’s on shuffle. My playlist is pretty extensive so if I hear the same song twice, then I’ve been at it too long. Nap time.

6. I hurt myself. If ignore all of these and I catch another piece of plywood in the gut, I take that as a sign that I’ve been in there too long and it’s time for a nap and probably a change of skivvies.

Maybe some of those work for you. Maybe they don’t. Regardless, we need to be aware of the signs that we’re just not alert enough to be around our tools anymore that day and that doesn’t just mean power tools. My fingers have plenty of scars from where a chisel or a marking knife decided my lack of tattoos was too boring and they needed to leave a mark. It’s better to enjoy a good restful nap, and have a project take longer than desired than to try to pull an all-nighter and add a visit to the emergency room.

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