DIY Network

Safety and First Aid in the Workshop

Workshops, by nature, contain items that can be hazardous. One of the most important things to plan for in a workshop is safety. Following are a few suggestions for keeping a workshop safe.

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always keep first aid kit in workshop

Always keep a first-aid kit in the workshop, and always know where it is. First aid kits can be purchased, or can be assembled. Essential items include bandages, antiseptic wipes, gauze, scissors, tweezers and a cold-pack. Toolbox-sized first aid kits are available, and are small enough for easy portability inside a toolbox.

Eye protection is absolutely essential in much of the work done in workshops, including any work that involves power tools. In fact, it's a good idea to leave goggles or safety glasses in a hard-to-miss location with respect to power tools -- such as on the table of a drill press -- as a reminder to wear them.

There are all kinds of safety glasses available at home centers, including some that have built-in ear protection as well. Ear protection is important when using high-decibel power tools such as table saws and circular saws. If full-sized ear-muff style protectors aren't available, at least use ear plugs.

To avoid breathing dust and other particulate pollutants that are common in workshops, wear a particle mask. Sawdust from treated wood (e.g., pressure-treated lumber) has known health risks, so it's particularly important to avoid exposure to those kinds of particles. Protective particle masks are disposable, inexpensive and available in bulk packages, so you can always have a plentiful supply.

For fire safety, it's important to have both a good detection system -- in the form of smoke detectors -- and fire extinguishers.

Smoke detectors should be checked periodically, using their test button, to make sure that they are fully operational. Read and follow the operating instructions that come with the smoke detector.

To ensure that the smoke detectors always have adequate battery power, change the batteries twice a year. An easy way to avoid forgetting is to change the batteries in all smoke detectors on the same day that clocks are reset to daylight savings time and standard time.

The fire extinguisher in a workshop should be kept charged. Check the status of the charge with the recharge indicator on the extinguisher. Once the indicator reaches the "recharge" zone, take it to have it recharged.

The fire extinguisher should also be rated with "A, B and C" approval, indicating that it is suitable for dealing with various categories of fires -- standard combustibles, flammable gases and liquids and electrical fires.

For safety, the breaker box should be located where it's easily accessible. The workshop should also have a phone that is easily accessible. In this setting, a phone is not only a convenience, it is an essential piece of safety equipment in case of emergencies.

In our workshop, the phone was positioned next to the breaker box, and the door of the breaker box had a corkboard for posting messages as well as a list of emergency phone numbers.