Checkbox Safety

Got an email about a tool survey from Fine Woodworking (most tools were either not in my workshop, or not in Australia, so I guess rather limited appeal for non-Americans when that Tool Review mag surfaces), and came across a sort of games/quiz section on their website.

After playing around a little with “Spot the Difference” with classic Fine Woodworking covers, I took a tablesaw safety quiz (multichoice), and found I was getting some of the questions ‘wrong’, although I disagree that I was. Not that what was being given as the ‘correct’ answer wasn’t necessarily right in some circumstances, or for some skill levels, which I feel reveals more the danger of using the absolutes of multichoice when discussing machinery safety.

Unless of course, for each question, after A. B. C. and D. there is also “E. Depends”

For example, one question was whether you can rip an irregularly shaped or circular piece of timber on a tablesaw. Their answer is “no”, yet I have ripped many pieces of widely varying shapes on a tablesaw perfectly safely (with the use of a carriage), so the absolute answer really required a “Depends” checkbox.

Operating safely in the woodworking workshop is not a matter of pure black and white “right and wrong”. It is much more a matter of what is needed (including knowledge and skill level) to complete a specific task, rather than whether it is simply “safe or unsafe”.

Can you safely rip an irregular shaped piece of timber on the tablesaw? Depends.

Can you cut a circle safely on a tablesaw? Depends.

Can you cut timber with knots and/or nails? Depends.

Safety Guards should always be used. Depends.

(and before I get tonnes of hatemail, try using a riving knife and blade guard when coving! So “depends!”)

Update: As Sven has pointed out in his experienced comment, there is only one real piece of safety equipment. If that isn’t working in optimum condition, no manner of guarding, or pushstick or anything will help, and that’s the grey mush between the ears.

If you are tired, distracted, intoxicated, or for any other reason off your game and/or not focusing on the job, and tool at hand you might instead be finding yourself suddenly focusing on your hand in the tool.

If your primary safety equipment is switched on, you have every chance of having another great, productive and safe sawdust generating shed session.

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