The topic of 'health and safety' is not always the most popular with many hobby engineers who can view any advice on how to manage their workshops as an intrusion. Nonetheless, regular forum discussions reveal that, from time to time, there are some close calls and unpleasant accidents in our workshops. It harms no-one to make sound advice on workshop safety readily available, particularly to beginners who are in a position to learn the habits of safe working.
Accident statistics aren't broken down in a way that lets us really understand how dangerous (or not) our workshops are. According to the 2002 HASS report furniture accidents are over four times as frequent as "DIY, Building, tool or machine" accidents, and similarly accidents in "tool/potting/coal etc. shed/outbuilding" are relatively rare compared to bedrooms! Of course, not everybody has a workshop while most people have a bedroom, which could go some way to balancing these figures.
The fact is that our workshops are all full of potential hazards - machine tools, chemicals, sharp edges, heavy items, high-level storage, trip hazards. Familiarity with 'our' space helps us avoid potential accidents that could catch the unwary, but also means we can get caught out due to complacency.
For those who want a thought-provoking read that puts workshop practice the Health and Safety Executive guidance booklet "Health and Safety in Engineering Workshops" is well worth downloading and reading.
Please remember that this guidance is aimed at industry, where machines are used by different operators, and often doing repetitive and tiring jobs. Usually we are the only person to use our machinery regularly, so we know it better, and we rarely do repetitive jobs and can take a break whenever we want. But on the other hand, we often press our machines to the limits of their capabilities and try new things. we rarely have any formal training.
This guidance isn't a rull book for home workshops, but it does highlight a lot of common sense precautions. It shouldn't stop anyone enjoying their hobby, but hopefully it will help stop one or two people having accidents that bring their hobby to an untimely end.
In the end though, the best advice is simple: You are the most dangerous thing in your workshop - so be careful!
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