Putting Safety First, Starting in the Lumber Yard
Throughout the lumber and construction industries, the first full week of May includes an emphasis on safety. Woodworker’s Safety Week often includes a focus on workshop and equipment safety. While those issues are certainly important, there are also safety concerns to consider before your lumber even makes it to your workshop or job site. Safety starts at the lumber yard, when you’re moving rough lumber around and transporting it to your workshop or job site.
Lifting and Maneuvering
One issue to consider regarding the typical 8 to 12-foot boards sold at lumber yards is the sheer weight of individual boards. For an FAS 8/4x6 Cherry board that’s 8 feet long, the weight would be approximately 17 pounds. Even though that doesn’t seem like much, the combination between the weight and length of the board can cause strain on little-used muscles — never mind that it’s enough to break a toe, if you’re not careful.
Exotic hardwoods are more dense and come in larger sizes, so a typical board can weigh up to 65 to 70 pounds. Unless you’re looking for an excuse to injure your lower back, you’ll want to make sure to lift with your legs, not your back, and be sure to allow one end of the board to rest on something in order to avoid bearing the full force of the weight.
If you end up pulling boards off a horizontal rack, be sure to lever them off the rack and onto the floor. As you transport your selections across the lumber yard, taking advantage of rolling carts provided by the yard will be key to avoiding injury, as well. Being cautious and staying attentive at all times in the lumber yard will help minimize accidents from happening.
Working with Rough Lumber
In order to avoid splinters, you’ll want to wear tough gloves whenever you’re handling rough-sawn lumber. In addition to being painful, splinters can lead to infections that cause more than momentary discomfort and disruption to your project schedule.
Especially when you’re working with exotic species, oils and resins can cause terrible reactions, including blood poisoning. Don’t think that domestic species are safe, though: Many people are allergic to species such as Walnut or White Oak, and any species can cause an allergic reaction. A key consideration is that the stronger the smell during milling, the stronger the resins and oils and subsequent chances of allergic reactions.
Admittedly, there are much more worrisome potential consequences to ignoring the harm that can come from failing to take proper precautions around table saws or high-speed carbides. By comparison, the potential injuries that can arise when moving rough lumber may even seem trivial. Remember that it’s not an either/or situation, though: Whenever you’re working with lumber, you need to take precautions and make sure you’re safe. It’s usually when we think little-to-no danger exists that we end up getting injured.