Lathe Safety Series, Part 2 - Eye Safety
Last month, we discussed the importance or respiratory safety when working at the lathe. This month, we will discuss proper safety for your vision during woodturning.
Always keep in mind the old saying that "safety is no accident!" Simply knowing, while not following safety procedures is of no benefit. All too often, wood turners can develop serious breathing disorders, injured eyes, broken bones, serious cuts, bruises, and a variety of other ailments. Safety should be taken seriously. This is important especially to beginners, as it is much easier to develop good habits in the beginning than it is to fix bad habits in the future. This said, let's begin taking a look at what you need to know about eye safety!
Proper Safety Gear -
- Safety glasses
Safety glasses are one of the most commonly used types of eye protection. Should you choose to use safety glasses, remember three things: choose glasses which fit properly, have side shields to protect against debris entering through the side of the glasses, and are made from quality impact resistant materials such as polycarbonate to protect against large, heavy items such as flying tools or chunks of broken wood.
- Face shields
Face shields provide excellent protection to both your eyes, as well as the rest of your face at the same time. Remember the same three important things should you decide to purchase a face shield, though: find one which provides adequate protection from the side, fits properly, and is made of impact resistant material.
- Safety goggles
Safety goggles provide your eyes the most protection, as they allow little, if any debris to come into contact with your eyes. As with safety glasses, though, one must be sure to choose goggles which fit properly, and are made of quality, impact resistant materials.
Proper Visual Positioning -
Remember, most debris that comes off of the lathe will be thrown off perpendicular to the piece of wood on the lathe. Keeping your head and eyes pointed straight towards the piece you are working on at all times when the lathe is running will greatly improve the ability of your safety gear to do its job. I learned this the hard way one afternoon as I reached for a tool near my lathe's head stock. Although I was wearing a full face shield, a bit of undried CA glue flew out of some inlay I had just placed, and came through the rear of the safety shield and into my eye. Trust me, having CA glue in your eye is no fun, and takes many days to finally come out on its own. Don't turn your head, even for a moment!
Be Aware of Wood Toxicity -
Keep in mind that some wood dust can be irritating to the eyes, and in severe cases, can cause temporary blindness. Before working with new woods (especially exotic woods), be sure to educate yourself on any potential toxicity. Most wood dust that turners will ever encounter will at most only produce a slight dryness or minor irritation in the eyes. Be aware of the risks. If you feel any discomfort, discontinue working with the wood you are using, and seek medical attention if symptoms progress or continue to worsen.
In Case of Accidents -
Even when you are prepared, accidents can still occur. If something does occur to injure your eye, be sure to quickly step away from the lathe. It is better to leave the lathe running, than to risk causing further damage to yourself by attempting to shut off the lathe and potentially causing another accident. Care for your eye first, then return to care for the lathe and your work later. We prefer to keep eye wash solution and disposable eye wash cups on site to aid in removing bits of stray sawdust or small wood chips should they get into our eyes. Always seek immediate medical attention for more serious injuries.