Use respirators and masks to protect yourself from the dangers of wood dust
Wood dust is carcinogenic, according to the National Cancer Institute. This is something you don’t want to breathe in in large quantities! Protect yourself and your team by wearing respirators or masks at all times while sanding floors or doing anything that involves kicking wood dust into the air. If you’re refinishing old floors, this is especially important as they may be covered in material that is very toxic, such as lacquer.
Respect the power of your equipment
You should always use the guard that comes with your table saw. Some models now have advanced built-in safety features that stop running if they make contact with your fingers. But if yours doesn’t have that feature, you should use your guard even if it is cumbersome. Make sure to use eye and ear protection as well to prevent getting injured from flying debris and damaged hearing.
As Tom Macedo advises in this article from Wood Floor Business, “Any person operating any piece of equipment, from a saw to an automobile, should focus on total concentration. Focus on the tool in use, avoid distractions and have a discussion with your body parts before extending them. Actually look at your hands and say”hi,” to them before sticking them in harm’s way. It only takes a second, yet it focuses you on safety. Evaluate your tool and safety guards like a pilot examines his plane before takeoff. Becoming complacent is the biggest danger. The tool is so easy to use that it becomes commonplace to forget its danger. It’s like driving a car and not paying attention. You may almost always come to a complete stop at a stop sign that you encounter every day. Just once you may roll through, and a car comes from the right, and bam! You have a crash.”
The need to be careful with your equipment extends to other types of equipment, not just machinery like table saws which pose an obvious threat. For example, whenever you’re repairing a piece of equipment, make sure it is unplugged, and always make sure to follow the manufacturers’ instructions for operating your machinery.
We highly recommend wearing earplugs or earmuffs on each and every jobsite. Your hearing is at risk when you’re working with big machines, edgers, and other noisy machinery day in and day out. You may not notice any changes when you’re still new to the game, but all of that noise will wear on you over the years. Remember that hearing loss is permanent, and those machines are LOUD!
Be careful with electricity
Electricity is dangerous and is a major threat on every jobsite. You have to take proper precautions to ensure that the electrical hookup for your machines is correct and that you’re not sanding over or walking into exposed wires that you may assume are not live. Click here for a comprehensive guide on safely powering a wood flooring jobsite.
“In some houses, there are 220-volt stoves, dryers and window AC units that—with the right pigtail—can be easily plugged into. In homes without that convenience, contractors must hire an electrician to install the correct outlet or they must find a power supply in the box. In some states, it is illegal for anyone but a licensed electrician to open the panel box,” according to this article by Wood Floor Business.
“My advice is to be aware of your job site conditions. If you see one electrical condition that is questionable, then you should question the integrity of the entire electrical system. Look beyond the obvious. There are sometimes hundreds of electrical boxes that are installed prior to the sheetrock mud being applied.” – Greg Dunican, from this Wood Floor Business article.
Prevent spontaneous combustion
We talk a lot about spontaneous combustion on our blog because our old warehouse was razed by a fire that was caused by this exact phenomenon in 2015.
Be careful with wood dust. It’s flammable and the hardwood floor installation and refinishing processes naturally create a lot of it. One small spark near a collection of wood dust can spell disaster.
Having an effective, powerful DCS on the job is one of the best lines of defense. But what do you do with all of the collected dust, how do you properly dispose of it?
Kevin Layman says that after his crew accidentally set the side of a house on fire because they left bagged up dust next to it, they developed a new process. “What we do now is soak the vacuum bags in water and we wrap them separately in black plastic bags and put them on the curb. Every one of my trucks has a fire extinguisher. My guys really understand that now, because they realize that this can happen.”
We recommend hosing down any finish-soaked rags, etc. before placing them into a fireproof container for disposal. It is also wise to frequently empty your vacuum bags while sanding on a jobsite, and to take them outside to do so to avoid spreading the wood dust indoors.
Make sure that a fire exstinguisher is available and accessible on each jobsite and make sure to keep one in your van as well.
Remember to be aware of your surroundings and that it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Take all of the precautions possible to avoid injuries and mishaps on the job!