Risk Management/Shop Safety and Advice (long)

I've been thinking about the "Splitter" thread and an issue it raised regarding the safe use of tools, be they hand or power tools and advice solicited and advice given on the subect. One participant, apparently a very experienced and gifted woodworker with a lot of skills and knowledge of woodworking tools and their uses, recommended against ever using a splitter. Several others, myself included, felt that recomendation was an irresponsible thing to do and gave reasons why. The best thing that thread produced was the point that each of us is his/her best safety device.
But I've been mulling over the issue of shop safey and safe practices. I think that it's a matter of risk management. To evaluate the risks of a particular action one must a) know what the risks are, as much as is reasonably possible, and the consequences should something go wrong b) know what devices, methods/procedures, if any, are available to reduce the risks c) know what knowledge, skills and abilities are required to properly use such devices, methods/procedures d) know the knowledge, skills and abilities of the person who will perform the action e) keep accurate, up to date records of accidents that do occur and analyze each incident to identify what went wrong and what, if anything, can be done about it
In that context I was recalling my early days behind the wheel of a car. By today's standards, my little Ford Falcon was a potential death trap - no seat belts or air bag(s), a stearing wheel waiting to spear me, no side mirrors, no headrest, no disc brakes, no ABS, no radial tires, lots of knobs and switches to puncture tissue, no padded dash and I doubt that it had safety glass. Add to that a 16 year old kid who was certain he knew everything AND was immortal.
Now imagine that this young, inexperienced driver writes a letter to a car magazine asking what the best way to turn a corner is. And imagine that Sterling Moss, perhaps the best race car driver of his era, responds to his question, assuming the question is being asked by a newbie race car driver. And let's also assume that "the kid" doesn't know Sterling Moss from Grandma Moses, but takes Sterling's advice and turns a corner using that advice....
(for those unfamiliar with Sterling Moss - the guy made race cars do things they theoretically couldn't do - on many, many occassions. He ended his career after going into a turn 20-30 mph faster than he should have - hitting a wall and wrapping the car around himself. When the rescue people got to him and started cutting him out of the car, one half of his body was trying to downshift while the other side of his body was trying to get out of the car - he was unconscious at the time. After 6-8 months in the hospital, he returned to the same track where the accident occured and, in the same type of car, ON A WET TRACK, he beat the track lap record. Only then did he retire from professional racing because he felt he was holding back.)
Now let's look at the risk management thing in this context.
a) know what the risks are, as much as is reasonably possible, and the consequences should something go wrong
A 16 year old seldom evaluates risks and consequences are what other people experience because they're stupid.
b) know what devices, methods/procedures are available to reduce the risks
If a 16 year old new driver knows where to look for the brake fluid resevoir it's a miracle. "Dipstick" - that's a term applied to a real idiot. Speed limits, what speed limits? Brakes squeeling must mean they're really grabbin' good. Smokin' your tires is awesome.
c) know what knowledge, skills and abilities are required to properly use such devices, methods/procedures
"I got my license so I know how to drive."
d) know the the knowledge, skills and abilities of the person who will perform the action
With the above context, now how do you think Sterling Moss would respond?
The Wreck is a very diverse group with a broad range of ages, knowledge, skills, abilities and experience levels. It's also a place where "short and sweet" is the form of most questions and answers. And there's the rub - advice given and advice taken should be in a context - for both the advice giver and the advice receiver. This has become even more important now that some new folks in the group are posting trolls which may contain really bad advice just to get a troll/flame thread going.
So if you're going to ask advice about shop safety, shop safety devices or safe practices, please give readers some idea of your level of knowledge and experience in woodworking, even if it's as simple as newbie, intermediate, advanced, full time furniture maker etc.. If you're going to respond to a safety question, please keep in mind the experience level of the questioner when you respond and some idea of your qualifications. You might also want to mention how many full fingers and thumbs you have, along with other info that might help the reader to evaluate what type of risk taker you are.
daclarke provided just such info in one of his later posts in the "splitter" thread. "I can tell you, the last time I cut myself on the tablesaw was aboutfifteen years ago. I felt that tingle, looked down and saw that if I pulled my hand out I would loose the piece, it would kick back and be ruined, or I could take that corner off my thumb and loose a little skin and blood. What do you think I did?"
I don't know what he did but I do know that I'm not going to knowinlgy let any part of my body get that close to a spinning table saw blade. If I unkowingly find that I have a choice of losing a piece of wood or losing a piece of myself I'll kiss off the piece of wood in a new york minute. But I won't have to worry much about the board kicking back because I've used stock controlling devices and I'm standing out of the line of fire. But hey - that's just my choice. Maybe when I've been doing this for 15+ years I won't value my body parts, even small parts, as much as my wood. You'll make your own choices.
charlie b
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wrote:

My all time favorite race car driver, until Jimmy Clark came along. Then I retired the trophy.
He was well known for winning even though he was not driving the fastest car in the race. He won nearly half the races he entered (222/495).
By the way, I'm pretty sure it's Stirling.
- - LRod
Master Woodbutcher and seasoned termite
Shamelessly whoring my website since 1999
http://www.woodbutcher.net
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<snippage of some well-used electrons>

Amen, brother!
What others can do safely often causes me to shudder, because I cannot count on my concentration or fine motor control, or predict with accuracy how that material or those tools will behave. IOW, what's safe for you, or others, may be very dangerous for me.
Patriarch
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patriarch wrote:

There's also the matter of experience levels. Someone who has been doing things for 20 years knows when to use a shortcut and when not and what he personally can "get away" with. Someone with much less experience doesn't have that judgment. And nobody has any way of knowing how much experience a random person wandering into the newsgroup might have unless they are already well known from other sources and known to actually be that person instead of an impersonator, so it's best either to inquire or to assume the worst.

--
--John
Reply to jclarke at ae tee tee global dot net
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calmly ranted:

Truer words were never spoken, charlie.
We are tool users and, as such, live in a very dangerous society. Hand and power tools are dangerous, chemicals are dangerous, driving cars & pushing mowers are both dangerous pastimes. That said, I choose to do (nearly) all of the above on a daily basis.
I'm alert enough to avoid most damaging situations, but end up losing a bit of skin here and there _at_least_ once a week. One move out of every ten thousand results in a shin scuff, skin slice, knuckle scrape, splinter puncture, metal slice, etc.
Bottom line: It's all worth it.
(Besides, we need damage^H^H^H^H^H^Hchallenge to our bodies on a regular basis to keep our immune systems in top shape.)
That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.
P.S: Didja have to remind us how arrogantly stupid we were at 16?
------------------------------------------------------------------ Vote early, Vote often, Vote for Chad! http://diversify.com Comprehensive Website & Database Development
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says...

Kinda' reminds me of Mike Hailwood ("Mike the Bike"). How old was he when he came out of retirement and won the Isle of Man race?
And the safety advice is right on.
--
Where ARE those Iraqi WMDs?

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There is a school of thought that says "rules are made for those who don't know any better." (This applies to 'rules', as separate and distinct from 'regulations'. )
That is a _very_ facietous-sounding remark, but one with a *lot* of truth in it, once you look below the surface.
'Rules', in general, are _simplifications_ of the collective wisdom of the practitioners of the art. They don't try to cover _all_ the conditions which influence the decision-making process -- the 'predicates' are reduced to the minimum set needed to _include_ all the relevant cases, along with a minimal number of irrelevant, but 'harmless' cases. and to _exclude_ those cases where it would be harmful to apply _this_ rule,
All 'rules' are statements of _general_ applicability. Invariably, however, there _are_ 'special cases' where it *is* o.k. to "violate" the rule. These are the 'irrelevant, but harmless' cases mentioned above.
The true 'expert' is one who knows the rule -- and knows *why* it exists; he knows _what_ conditions it applies to, and recognizes _when_ the 'special case' conditions exist, where that particular rule can be ignored with impunity.
It has been argued that the real measure of 'expertise' is the extent to which one can identify such 'special case' situations.
Statements of 'conventional wisdom', or 'rules', are *not* to be taken lightly. They are distillations of more experiences, and more varieties of experiences, than one could ever possibly hope to accumulate, personally. They exist _because_ they are the *correct* thing to do in the vast majority of the situations where they claim to apply.
Why should one do things the way the 'rules' say? The answer depends on who is asking the question:
For the novice -- "Because, that way, it will work."
For the intermediate -- "Because, for this _type_ of situation, it is usually          the right way, although rare situations a different          approach may work better."
For the expert -- "Well, in _this_ situation, because of *these*          extenuating circumstances, it may be better to use          this alternate method. In the general case, it's          still preferable to use the 'standard' approach."
First, you learn the basics. Next, you learn to 'generalize' -- and apply specific knowledge to a broader set of situations. Eventually, you learn how to 'recognize special-case exceptions'.
'Generalizing' is a basic learned skill -- but nobody can teach you _how_ to do it; you have to figure out 'how to do it' for yourself, by being confronted with lots and *lots* of specific cases, and then being required to apply 'whatever it is' to other 'similar' cases. The vast majority of formal schooling is devoted to this particular point -- even though it is rarely, if ever, explicitly stated that that is what they are teaching. <grin>
'Special case exceptions' is where life gets *messy*. And you discover that a lot of the things you thought were 'always so' are _not_ always so.
Even the very -basics-. 'Two plus two equal four', right? That's _always_ true, right?
What if you pour two cups of alcohol into two cups of water -- how many cups of liquid do you have as a result?
What if you have two raindrops _here_ on a window-pane, and two more over _here_, and they all run together -- how many raindrops do you have now?
And, yet, everybody _still_ teaches "2+2=4".
Because it's the right thing _most_of_the_time_. <grin>
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snipped-for-privacy@host122.r-bonomi.com (Robert Bonomi) wrote in
<snips of hard earned truth>

When we have learned the true principles which govern an activity, then it is those principles, along with our experience, which allow us to attempt to make correct decisions in the *messy bits* of life.
We make good decisions when we have learned to recognize sufficient true principles, learned to trust the correct experts, and/or, more frequently, are plain fortunate in our choices.
Parenting, teaching and growing up in any endeavor, is teaching correct principles. Because we won't, can't, shouldn't, be there to advise on all of the decisions.
Patriarch, still learning through hard experience.
And convinced of, and thankful for, the squad of guardian angels assigned to me and mine.
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