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Specific Rules of Thumb for Shop Safety!


Staff member
On the home page, we have the General Rules of Shop Safety printed below,

Use caution when using machinery, power equipment and tools to reduce the risk of personal injury. Always use safety equipment. Always wear safety glasses or approved eye protection. Dust mask, non-skid safety shoes, hard hat or hearing protection should be worn for appropriate conditions. Read and understand all instructions. Keep your work area clean and well lit. Cluttered work environments and poor lighting may cause accidents. Do not operate power tools around explosive materials. Be aware of flammable liquids, gases or dust. Power tools can create sparks which may ignite the dust or fumes. Keep bystanders, children and visitors out of the work area. Always be aware of your surroundings. Machines have no conscience. To avoid distractions that could cause injury to you or others, all visitors should be kept away from the work area. Do not operate power tools while tired or under the influence of drugs, alcohol or medication. A moment of inattention may result in serious personal injury. Loose clothing, jewelry or long hair can be caught in moving parts. Do not overreach. Proper footing and balance enables better control of the tool. Store idle tools and machinery out of reach of children or other untrained persons. Machinery and tools are dangerous in the hands of untrained users.

but I wanted to ask you guys what you felt were the specific rules of safety when working with lathes, milling machines, drill presses, grinders, etc. Things like NEVER storing a chuck key in the chuck, never walking away from a running machine, etc. What rules do you feel are important for shop safety?
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Active User
Active Member
the disclaimer mentions jewelry, but some people don't think of their wedding band when they think of jewelry. Wearing rings around rotating machinery can result in the loss of a finger (or at least all the meat that surrounds the bone of a finger). Also, you should not wear gloves around rotating machinery.


Active User
Active Member
My 18 year old nephew has been helping me around the shop. Great kid! Knows nothing about shop safety.
Things that should be common since are not so common if you've never been around it.

1. Safety glasses.
Example: I had to make plugs for tubing we were making duck call sleeves
so coolant wouldn't run our the back of the spindle. When I was cutting the part-off
tit I had him hold his hand to catch the tit when it was cut. He said "OWW!!"

Now he wears his safety glasses.

2. No gloves around the drill press.

3. No loose clothing around any moving parts.

4. Never leave a chuck key in the chuck. If you let go of the key take it out of the chuck no exceptions!

I'm sure there are more these are the ones that have came up in the last few weeks for a complete rookie



Active User
Active Member
I am a construction project manager and part of our safety program requires a written work analysis for any task to be performed, no matter how small. I am not suggesting that this is appropriate for the hobby machinist, but the simple idea of completely walking through a project from start to finish before you begin is a huge benefit.

Ray C

Staff member
Some habits and rules I self-impose...

  • Stop working when you're exhausted or distracted. No burning the midnight oil, quit while you're ahead.
  • Safety glasses at all times when machines are running.
  • Keep your eyes on the workpiece and no flailing your hands around. Hands and fingers should always be moved in a thoughtful and purposeful manner.
  • Keep your face out of the work. i.e. Resist the temptation to inspect closely a part while it's being machined -lest a bit breaks, grinding wheel fractures or a piece comes loose. -The emergency room doctors treat that as seriously as a gunshot wound.
  • Double check that all pieces are chucked/clamped firmly.
  • Never remove swarf (from lathe, mill, surface grinder etc) with your fingers while the machine is running. Use a hook or brush.
  • Never reposition pieces in a mill or drill press when a bit is directly above your hand.
  • Stop and sweep/clean/organize the shop while a job is in progress.
  • Make sure you have proper ventilation in your work area.
  • Keep fire extinguishers around and have a safety kit with a tourniquet.

  • Always make sure you're wearing the proper helmet and check settings on auto-darkening types. For auto-darkening types, check function with a flint scratcher at the start of the day (ask me about this one).
  • Keep your face out of the smoke if you're stick welding.
  • No welding while your butt is sitting on the ground.
  • No welding if the clothes are completely sweated-up.
  • No grease or oil around. Throw-out oil soaked gloves.
  • Cover your skin, put pant legs over the boot sleeves. No soft top shoes.
  • No overhead work without the cape -not even for a second.
  • Protect others and use a shielding blanket -and put the dogs in the house where they can't get flashed.

You have to learn that safety is a mindset and engrained with training.


Frank Ford

Active User
Active Member
Safety is obviously important to all of us, and there are lots of lists of problems, both specific and general. I don't have much to add except what I do personally to keep safety in mind:

Working with others - talk safety, remind 'em to use safety glasses, ear protection, shoes, whatever. Notice obvious violations and make them known - key in chuck, etc.

Working alone - talk to self - "OK, what's going on here today that can get me in trouble. . ." I'm serious - I do talk to aloud to myself, and it seems to help.


Active User
Active Member
If someone comes in to visit while you are machining, shut it off to visit or ask them to wait til you get to a stopping point.
Don't lean on the machines while they are running.


Global Moderator
Staff member
Never walk away from a running machine.Finish your cut and back off the tool and turn off the machine.
Don't let ANYONE distract you when you are makeing a cut.See above.
Never work tired take a brake and start again when you can focus.
The machines we use can and will hurt,mame or kill you.
Think about what you want to do before you start.Then think about it again.
Always double check that every thing is tight before you start your machine.
All these tips come from 29 years working whith my uncle Tucker working in his shop. NO deaths but we came close too many times.
I have no CNC in my shop so some of this will make no sence to you that do.So I say to you that do chime in and update my tips. With CNC in mind.
*****Just Saying*******Gator************

Ray C

Staff member
Re: Brake cleaner and Welding

Woah, this is pretty scary... FWIW, I only use 80 or 90% isopropyl alcohol from the drug store when I need to degrease before welding. And when you get the occasional cut or knuckle scrape, its handy to splash a little on right away.

I just read this thread today.
It is a very important reminder, not a joke at all. :scared: :yikes::faint:
If you must use the stuff, make sure it is entirely gone before you apply any heat to it.



Registered Member
I have watched many videos on machining with a lathe or mill. I see many people wearing gloves, some are rubber and some are leather. I hope and pray they never get snagged because the machine is going to turn your hand into mush while you are laying on the floor screaming your fool know it all head off from the pain.

Skip (I have been a toolmaker for 40 years and still have all my fingers)


Active User
Active Member
I have noticed that when doing a small electrical job (wiring, replacing a fuse, repairing something) people usually do not take off their rings & watches. BAD IDEA!!!

I have a 30 year old, 1 1/2" diameter, scar on my wrist that reminds me of how bad of a practice that is.
It is amazing how fast 12 volts can make a watch band luminous and give you a 3rd degree burn. Just think what 120, 240, or 440 volts could do. :whiteflag:


Active User
H-M Supporter-Premium
Can't add much to the excellent advice already given except to have a well-stocked first aid kit in the shop and KNOW how to use it. Accidents happen, regardless of how careful we all try to be, and basic knowledge of wound treatment and a phone close by can make a major difference in the outcome of an injury.

I'm a (happily!!!) retired Physician and have treated many injuries over the years, both in my clinic and in the ER. If I had to guess which machine caused the most injuries in that time I would have to say the Drill Press. Yup, the DP. Seems a lot of folks like to hand-hold items and when that bit breaks through it starts to twirl that piece of work and you have instant hamburger.

The other machine that gets a lot of folks is the simple bandsaw. I suspect the two seconds it takes to grab a push stick interrupts their work flow too much and they would rather slice into their hands instead. Its amazing how effective a band saw blade is at cutting human flesh.

Lathes and milling machines tend to eat limbs and bodies - I've seen it. For all the reasons given in the previous posts, please be very careful around these powerful machines. Long sleeved shirts around a spinning lathe chuck is an invitation to disaster, believe me. Hanging jewelry around your neck is almost as bad.

I highly recommend taking a course in basic first aid. Many community resources are available, as are books and articles. Keep in mind that treating a simple cut with a good antibacterial wash and dressing it properly can prevent most infections if done quickly. If you clean and dress a cut inside of the first two minutes or so you will rarely have an infection and will heal much faster; wait an hour and you're going to have issues. If you get hurt, STOP and deal with it now.

Be safe, everyone. This hobby is not worth body parts.


Active User
Active Member
While most may look at the thread title and say "nothing I dont know", there are always things you can learn AND ones to be reminded about. There are some great points listed here, especially the one regarding welding and chemicals. In the old days I worked with all kinds of chemicals, Carbon tet, EDC etc. The big problem with chemicals is they can "change" when exposed to IR or UV radiation. Personally I use a lot of carb cleaner (NOT brake cleaner crap they sell now) as the old brake cleaner may be toxic but doesnt have CFC's, where the new ones do. CFC's are nasty things when "split" as indicated by the previous post, plus it doesnt work near as well as real carb cleaner.

The only thing I can think of adding to the list right now is care and proper handling/storage of ANY pressurized cylinder. People sometime treat these thngs (like argon and TIG gas tanks) like indestructable metal tubes, but they can kill VERY FAST. There is a reason they should ALWAYS be chained up, as it really doesnt take a lot to knock a valve off them. I came 1/4" from death moving a Halon cylinder from a site (being removed), as the bottle activated while being carried (by my boss/buddy) when a defective manual activation assembly broke from the bottle (they figure it was due to thermal shock). This chuck cut a 4" chennel in the top of my head, but I got off far easier, as my buddy was dead before he hit the pavement. Discharge of pressurized gas went straight through his head. Gives you a whole new look at life when you hold someone close to you thats gone.

I service portable extingusihers (work in the fire protection field) and have seen what damage they can do. Have seen small ones (CO2) go through solid poured concrete walls.

So, be very carefull with your tanks, only takes a second and then its like trying to put a genie back in the bottle.


Active User
H-M Supporter-Premium
I think it is pertinent to -go through trouble- to make it CONVENIENT to be safe, deterring the temptation to do anything else... to SET-UP convenient safety.

One way I make sure not to leave tools in dangerous places, like chuck keys, is to have an official, SPECIFIC place they go- right at the machine. I keep chuck keys either in a wooden tool block at the machine, or on a spring loaded janitor's key-belt return that reaches down to the chuck easily.

Other tools as well, at each machine, at convenient reach, but out of the way of interference with any operation.

I hang pairs of safety glasses on handwheels at each machine. I usually have a pair on already, and keep them on each day, but I can't forget that now.

I also shield everything I can. I admit I'm not religious about it, but lexan between me and a spinning part or chuck blocks debris and liquids, and may deflect anything coming loose (God forbid).


Farmer Dodds

Active User
Active Member
Another may be to wear a welding beanie or a cap when working on the lathe. Had a chip fly up and land on my bald head the other day. Wasn't long in trying to get rid of that, then put on a beanie.:eek:uch:


Active User
H-M Supporter-Premium
Old Chipper;114051Long story short said:
I recently read about a college student who got killed that way. She was working alone on a lathe. Snapped her neck!
Such a shame, those accidents should not happen.:angry: They are not accidents in my book, it is negligence - different species altogether. :*****slap2:


Active Member
Active Member
Protect your lungs- Sand blasting in a cabinet still emits micro particles, operating a belt sander, orbital sander - pretty much any activity that removes material in dust form

Similar advice for your eyes- safety glasses may not be enough with dealing with airborne paint etc, especially for contact users.

Protect your eyes- I had to visit the optometrist myself last year because of a bad reaction to epoxy based spray paint. I wore regular safety glasses and a p95 filtering face piece. Apparently, it isn't a good idea to paint with contacts on. The doctor said I had microscopic material or solvents affix itself to the contacts which caused my eyes to turn crimson. He gave me antibiotic steroid drops and said it should be better in a few days. I have used diving goggles when I have previously painted hazardous materials- didn't worry about common epoxy spray paint from Home Depot.

My daughter is a fan of the walking dead and said I looked like a creature from the show.

Per my doctor: DON'T use airborne paints with contacts.


Active User
Active Member
I have noticed that when doing a small electrical job (wiring, replacing a fuse, repairing something) people usually do not take off their rings & watches. BAD IDEA!!!

I have a 30 year old, 1 1/2" diameter, scar on my wrist that reminds me of how bad of a practice that is.
It is amazing how fast 12 volts can make a watch band luminous and give you a 3rd degree burn. Just think what 120, 240, or 440 volts could do. :whiteflag:

rings watches etc are best left in a safe place and that is not on your fingers or wrist! I loose these to a safe repository first thing in the morning when I get to work.


Active Member
Active Member
In motorcycling, some have the motto ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time). That's how I am around machine tools: always wearing safety glasses, hearing protection even at moderately loud levels of sound, no hand tools or other loose items on the machine's work area, short sleeves, tucked shirt, no danglies.