Shop Safety is probably one of the easiest things to manage in your shop as it is all common sense.


Protective Equipment and Clothing

I wear protective glasses all the time in my shop, I do this because I kept finding myself working without the glasses on simply because I forgot - this is of course pretty dangerous. I shopped around for a while and found some very comfortable glasses which are ventilated.

Whenever you work with something noisy, such as a grinder or wire wheel you should wear hearing protection. I prefer the ear muffs over the little foam cones which go in your ear - they annoy me and distract me from what I'm working on.

Even when it is very hot I always wear full length sleeve overalls and work boots in the shop. I've lost count of how many times these have saved me from injury.

When welding, use the safety gear. I found the standard smoked glass to detrimental to my welding as I could not see the work well (if at all). I found a gold leaf glass which replaces the smoked glass. Now I see the work clearly as long as it is well lit. You could go further and buy some of the electronic goggles which are clear until the weld starts when they darken. I keep my ear muffs on when using the Mig as I've found that without them my ears ring a little after doing long jobs such as seam welding. I use full length leather gauntlets to protect my hands.

I have hurt my hearing a little using loud tools and regret it whenever it is quiet around me and I get to listen to the ringing. Fortunately I changed my way before it got too bad and it only affects me a little. Never use loud tools without protection.


In my shop I have installed a dedicated circuit which has circuit breaker and a TSD (an Earth Leakage Detector). The TSD detects when there is an unequal current going into the circuit than out of it. This indicates an earth leakage which could be a short to the case of say a drill, or it could be you being electricuted when you cut through a cord on your bench. In any case it cuts off the power about 30ms after it detects the imbalance.

I do not have enough electrical outlets in my shop which means I have a dependancy on power boards (strips) and extension cords. This decreases electrical safety in my shop by exposing some of the wiring to chemical and mechanical damage.

Pay attention to how much load you are putting on a circuit. Any one outlet in Australia can supply 10 Amps and in general the wiring will be gauged to deliver a maximum of 32 Amps probably with a 20 Amp breaker. Don't depend on the breaker saving you - if you load a single outlet up to 20 Amps the breaker will not blow, but you might get an arc inside the plug causing a fire (note that the TSD will not "see" this).

Consider placing red "mushroom" power off buttons around the shop. These are large buttons which can be belted to kill the power.


One of my friends used to have a pony tail until he visited my shop. While using the drill press he got tangled up and just about had it ripped off. Fortunately he managed to kill the press before he got badly hurt. It did convince him to cut it off though :)... There is a simple moral here - if you have long hair cover it up and don't wear loose clothing.

Most of my equipment is hold and does not have safety guards so I have to pay extra attention when working. I'm always careful to give a quick run down of the machine to any visitor who is going to use it.


Australian Occupation Health and Safety says that you should not lift anything with only one handle that weighs more than 16kg (32 lbs). It also says that when using both hands and lifting straight up you should not lift more than 25kg (50 lbs) and even then you should use a straight back with bent knees. I break this rule all the time, but I break it knowingly and carefully. I do not lift beyond my means. The good news for us is that most of our lifting is not repetitive and so is not as damaging when we lift too much. Take care, find your limit and stay under it at all times. I find that my engine crane and my block and tackle are essential.


Chemicals often offer two main safety problems: combining to form dangerous or flammable compounds and poisoning. I'm especially conscious of the latter since I have two kids, one of them who is determined to spray himself with anything he can get his hands on. I keep all my chemicals locked up. I keep those which should not be together in seperate vented lockers. The manufacturer of a chemical must under Australian law provide you with a datasheet which explains how to store, mix, and dispose of the chemical and includes safety information particular to that chemical. Get the sheets and read them.


I've included air here for two reasons, the first is simple: work in a well ventilated area especially when painting, welding, or grinding. Secondly if you pipe air around your shop you should pay attention to the piping. I use the high pressure flexible plastic (not PVC) pipe which you find in the air tool section of your hardware store. Mine runs from the compressor to near the centre of the room where it hangs down - I can work almost anywhere in the shop with an air tool from this tube. I've seen people use rigid PVC pipe, and while I've never heard of it blowing - it does make me uncomfortable - if I was going to put in piping I'd use copper or a plastic more suited to the job.