Woodworking has risks and pleasures. With this organization, we reduce the risks, maintain the pleasures, and create other benefits for ourselves. The risks in working wood are common to all shops. Responses to the risks range from "ignore and accept" to "analyze and reduce." We don't fall in the middle.
We replaced our perfectly serviceable, vintage, and revered Powermatic table saw with a new SawStop machine. This machine has the near magical ability to stop the spinning blade when it senses flesh.
On our other machines, we have improved the stock guards and developed new ones. There is a temptation to choose a method to achieve a purpose at a machine that is the fastest and least trouble to set up. We take the time to develop operations, systems, jigs, fixtures, and guards to make specific parts more safely . . . and, not incidentally, more precisely.
Face shields hang at strategic points in the shop.
Wood dust is a hazard to health. We have had central dust collection with overhead ducts and hoods at every machine for decades. It obviously made a difference. But to more accurately measure the performance of our system, we bought a dust particle meter to measure ambient dust in the air and the escape of dust from every operation. This information guided us to and through a major upgrade of the ductwork, the collection hoods at each machine, and our standards of maintenance and cleaning. While the numbers of dust particles have fallen to what are unusual for the industry, we continue. There are even better hoods and new filter systems to design and build.
We vacuum. Dust masks are provided, and for some operations, like sanding, are required.
We hired an audiologist to make an assessment and give a talk. We'll be fine if we wear our earplugs or muffs.
Wear and Tear
We get our backs into our living. Many of our motions are repetitive. We hired a physical therapist to help us plan a program and set up some stations to flex, strengthen, and relax heavily used muscle, tendon, cartilage, and bone.
We place mats as cushions in places where we stand a lot.
Our finishing system generates volatile organic compounds. To capture them, we designed and built a scrubber to change the air in the finishing rooms and filter it through carbon.
In addition, everyone has a respirator.
The Pleasure of Woodworking
Woodworking is not virtual. It's vital. We get our hands on a natural material of the highest order, and with our skill, fashion works of lasting beauty and utility.
The Creation of Benefits
One of the benefits of working here is that we address the hazards to reduce the risks. There are others.
Everyone is encouraged to experiment, improve his or her skills and use the shop. We respect and allow this time and time away for personal duty and pleasure. Among the financial benefits of full-time employment, we have five paid holidays, paid sick leave, paid vacations, and profit sharing. Full time employment is 37 hours per week. Overtime pay begins with the 38th hour.
Twice a year, we print everyone a sales chart, balance sheet, and income statement and have a meeting to go over these financial statements line by line. Whether there is profit to share or not is revealed.
At our meetings, and everyday, we look for ways to build better furniture in less time, ways to operate more efficiently and safely, and areas worthy of investment. We look for ways to better serve our clientele.
We have the respect of our peers and patrons for our skill and for our furniture. We know that we produce something extraordinary.