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The Occupational Safety Health Adminstration (OSHA), industry associations that have training programs, and manufacturers always address the topic of tool safety in their training classes. Regardless of all the safety precaution information that is constantly reinforced, there are those that have a different way of adapting tool safety. (Photo 1) The compound miter saw safety shield that keeps falling down because the spring or mechanism is broken. The easy solution: wire or strap it up somehow.

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Next comes the safety switch on the handle that needs to be depressed before the saw activates. Photo 2 shows electrical tape wrapped around the handle to keep the switch in place so that the saw will activate.

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Photo 3 shows table saws, with a missing shield; I know, the safety shield is really a pain! If the shields are not perfectly aligned, they tend to make it harder to push lumber through for a clean cut. By law, the blade shield is mandatory on any tool that has a cutting blade, and must be in place and in good working order. Use a push bar or push shoe to push the wood past the saw blade of the table saw. You only have ten fingers and we probably all know someone who has lost a finger or two from a saw; we don’t want any of you to be one of the casualties.

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Cords on tools are another area that installers have concerns with. (Photo 4) After-market plugs, unless installed by a licensed electrician with a document stating such, are not accepted by OSHA. The end plugs must be a molded plug. (Photo 5)

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While on the subject of cords, we can’t forget about the ground plug, you know, the one that gets removed if the wall outlet happens to be an older one that does not have the receptacle for the ground plug. The wrong solution: remove the ground plug. You can’t forget when the ground plug just breaks off in the wall outlet either. (Photo 6)

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This plug looks like it had a bit of a short from the way it is displaying some burnt and melted rubber around the post; hmmm, could the missing ground plug have had anything to do with it? (Photo 7) A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) is required at all wall outlets to protect breakers and electrical systems from tripping at the breaker box. The installer is to plug all tools into a GFCI.

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Tool box safety? Yes! Loose blades and broken latches; installers can be cited for OSHA safety violations (Photo 8).

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Alright so you have a tool that is properly grounded, and meets all the safety requirements; do you know how to use it properly? Let’s take a router for instance, do you know which direction to move the router? If you are routing an outside straight line, the direction you want to move the router is a counter-clockwise direction, against the bit’s rotation (Photo 9).

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 If you are routing an inside edge, move the router in a clock-wise direction. (Photo 10) The reason for the direction on the outside edge and inside edge is to keep the router next to the wood edge, preventing the router from pulling out of control. Improper feed direction is dangerous and can lead to injury.

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Circular saws are another tool that if not maintained and used properly can also cause serious injury. Make sure that the blade shield is working properly. A common occurrence with circular saws is the cord getting cut by the saw. When this occurs, don’t use electrician’s tape to repair the cord; take it to a qualified tool repair shop and have a new cord attached. If you want a longer cord, as the ones on the circular saws are pretty short, most of the repair shops that I know of will install a longer cord for you.  (Photo 11)

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When using the circular saw, stay to the side of the saw whenever possible, this will eliminate the saw kicking back and possibly cutting your leg. If you have no choice but to use the saw from behind, keep your elbow  situated so that if the saw kicks back, your elbow will hit your leg or hip and prevent the saw from kicking back and causing injury. A few ways a saw kicks back are: if the installer tries to back up with the saw,  tries to straighten the saw if it veers a bit off a straight line, or from the wood pinching or getting in a  bind with the blade.  Don’t cut between supports, such as saw horses, as this will put a bind on the wood and the saw blade. Make sure the wood you are cutting is well supported and will not move around. You may need to clamp a straight edge to the piece you will be cutting, or clamp a straight piece of wood next to the wood you will be cutting to minimize movement. And always remember to wear safety glasses whenever cutting, not on the top of your head but on your face where they are supposed to be worn!

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Every installer should keep a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit in their work vehicle; you always want to be prepared for an emergency. Keeping your tools organized does a couple of things. It shows that you care about your tools and also displays professionalism. Photo 12 shows what your tools or work truck should not look like. Photo 13 is displaying the tools of Doug Garden and Brad Dusterhoft at a recent hardwood training/certification, held at Installation Services in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Tools were organized, well maintained and professional in appearance. Which of these represents you as an installer?