Stay Focused and Be Safe

I originally wrote this post for the Time Warp Tool Works blog.

What causes accidents? What’s the biggest cause of accidents in the shop? Dull tools? No. Improper use? No. Not using the guards or proper safety equipment? No.

Ack – complacency! I believe that complacency is the #1 cause of accidents, and it’s easy to be complacent when you’re doing something you’ve already done a hundred times. For you, this might be crosscutting slats. For me, this might be detailing moulding planes. If working on a half-dozen planes, I could perform each of th following steps on the six planes before moving on to the next step:

      1. lay out the grip bevels;
      2. lay out the detail bevels;
      3. cut the grip bevels;
      4. cut the detail bevels;
      5. make the stop cuts;
      6. remove any remaining pencil marks; and
      7. smooth all surfaces.

Doing a half-dozen is not a big task, but if I have twenty parts to process, my mind might start to wander half way through.

Detailing a plane

The curse of the wandering mind! When I’m doing the same thing over and over again, my mind has a tendency to wander and think about other things. Focusing on the task at hand is lessened and the risk of having an accident is thereby increased, whether it be miscutting a part, damaging a tool or injuring myself.

Break the production line. To maintain focus when I am working on a run of planes that inevitably involves doing a lot of repetitive steps on one pair at a time and completing several steps in a row, then swapping that pair for another and repeating the steps. For example, I might:

      1. layout the grip and detail bevels on all planes;
      2. cut the grip and detail bevels, make the stop cuts, remove pencil marks and smooth surfaces of two planes; and
      3. repeat step (ii) on the next pair of planes until all are complete.

That way, I am not doing the same task over and over again without a break. By varying my tasks, I can stay better focused and reduce my likelihood of causing an accident.

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