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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:

      1. lay out the grip bevels;
      2. lay out the detail bevels;
      3. cut the grip bevels;
      4. cut the detail bevels;
      5. make the stop cuts;
      6. remove any remaining pencil marks; and
      7. 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.

Detailing a plane

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:

      1. layout the grip and detail bevels on all planes;
      2. cut the grip and detail bevels, make the stop cuts, remove pencil marks and smooth surfaces of two planes; and
      3. 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.