What causes accidents? What’s the biggest cause of accidents in the shop? Dull tools? No. Improper use? No. Not using the guards or proper safety equipment? No.
Ack – complacency! I believe that complacency is the #1 cause of accidents, and it’s easy to be complacent when you’re doing something you’ve already done a hundred times. For you, this might be crosscutting slats. For me, this might be detailing moulding planes. If working on a half-dozen planes, I could perform each step on each of the six planes before moving on to the next step:
- lay out the grip bevels;
- lay out the detail bevels;
- cut the grip bevels;
- cut the detail bevels;
- make the stop cuts;
- remove any remaining pencil marks; and
- smooth all surfaces.
Doing a half-dozen is not a big task, but if I have twenty parts to process, my mind might start to wander half way through.
The curse of the wandering mind! When I’m doing the same thing over and over again, my mind has a tendency to wander and think about other things. Focus on the task at hand is reduced and the risk of having an accident – whether it be miscutting a part or damaging a tool or injuring myself – is greatly increased.
Break the production line. To maintain focus when I am working on a run of planes which inevitably involves a lot of repetitive work is to work on one pair at a time and complete several steps in a row, then swapping the pair for another pair and repeating the steps. For example, I might:
- layout the grip and detail bevels on all planes;
- cut the grip and detail bevels, make the stop cuts, remove pencil marks and smooth surfaces of two planes; and
- repeat step (ii) on the next pair of planes until all are complete.
That way, I am not doing the same task over and over again without a break. By varying my tasks, I can better stay focused and reduce my likelihood of making mistakes.