Protective Maintenance – Wood Workers Safety Week 2012 – Part 3

In the Marines (and I assume the other branches of the military) there is a term that inspires true hate, sadness and wishing your EAS (End of Active Service) date was closer – PM or Preventive Maintenance. My shop has the same dread-inducing acronym, but with a little different meaning – Protective Maintenance. I’m not talking about sharpening chisels and plane blades (though I’m not a big fan of that activity either), I’m talking about the joys of sweeping, emptying the dust collection bags and vacuum bags and replacing filters – those pesky things that have to be done to keep tripping hazards out of the way, to keep our protective equipment running at peak efficiency.

Since I don’t use my shop full-time, it’s sometimes hard to know when certain maintenance tasks need to be done. A couple weeks ago I noticed the primary filter on my air cleaner looked like it had been hit with a fire extinguisher because it was covered with so much sawdust. That got me thinking that I needed to develop some process for remembering to clean or replace the filters on my shop vac, dust extractor, air cleaner and respirator. It’s easy to think these aren’t safety related tasks, and maybe they aren’t in the short-term, but in the long-term I think they are. Especially in regards to the air cleaner and respirator. If the filters can’t keep the air clean then we’re going to breathe that crap in which we all know (I hope), is bad for your lungs in the long-term.

To help me remember to stay on top of this, I made use of my Google calendar and created an event that repeats every six months that is set to send me a text message, an email, and an on-screen popup to remind me to go switch out these filters.

Now when it comes to keeping things orderly and clean, I think the risk is more obvious. It’s easy to trip and hit into things. I don’t use the calendar for this. Instead, I use a tip Tom Iovino had on Wood Talk Online a while back. He said every time he goes to the shop he puts away 5 things. I’ve tried to incorporate that same habit. At first it was difficult to do so I posted a reminder written in bright colors. That has seemed to help.

Just remember folks, the safer we are in the shop, the less chance we’ll have some sort of accident which might keep us out of the shop. So if we stay safe, we get more shop time and who doesn’t want more shop time?

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