Diesel Duck 382

Diesel Duck 382
Diesel Duck 382 with the "get home" steadying sails up.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Safety first - critical incidents for woodworkers

Well if you are only interested in boat building, this isn't going to be for you.  However, I imagine that most people checking out our project are DIY'ers themselves.  We are all pretty confident working around machinery and sharp tools and probably often take safety for granted.  However home shop accidents are one of the leading causes of home personal injury.  We surround ourselves with lots of sharp metal objects spinning one way or another at very high rates of speed.  Accidents are going to happen.

I'm no safety expert.  I can tell you I try to always wear eye protection and gloves.  I try not to wear loose clothing or have any hanging jewelry on.  Safety is every ones own responsibility and I would recommend you completely understand how to operate your machines and tools safely.  My only advice would be that if something feels wrong or unsafe, it probably is.  STOP! think of another way to do it safer.

I'm writing this not because I had an accident in the shop, but last night my son suffered a fairly serious cut on his leg.  Again, I'm no medical expert, but nearly 30 years in public service, I do have some basic first aid skills.  You don't need to have fancy training or expensive accessories to provide some basic first aid that may save you or someone else's life.  

The whitest kid in the world trying to be funny with made up gang symbols.

I'm proud of how my wife and son responded last night when blood was pouring from his inner thigh. My fear was that he had struck the femoral artery, which I know can cause someone to bleed out in under a minute.  Fortunately that was not the case and we were able to control the bleeding and transport him to the hospital.  

As proud as I was, I'm not sure either one of them really knew what to do.  I'm sure natural instincts would certainly kick in. That is of course, to cover the wound with something and push hard, which is exactly the right thing to do.  That got me thinking about DIY'ers like us.  Would we all know what to do if we stabbed our self with a chisel or became impaled by a flying piece of wood?

So I just wanted to provide some basic advice and urge everyone to get a little first aid training.  That training does not necessarily have to come from a formal class.  There's lots of information online that you can review that can get you up to speed.  Again it's nothing that complicated, but knowing what to do before it happens is critical.  Having knowledge provides confidence to keep you calm with the ability to handle the situation.

Regarding what specifically happened to my son; he accidentally stabbed himself with a hunting knife.  Now, whether he was fooling around, which is what I believe, or he was moving it when it slipped out of his hand (his explanation) is not really important when blood is pouring out of a wound.  The knife had an approximately 8 inch blade and judging from the location of the blood line on the knife tip, it penetrated his leg to a depth of about and inch and a half.

notice the dark red blood trail on the floor.

These pictures aren't that great because I was rushing.  I wanted the doctors to have a picture of what caused the injury so they were better able to treat it.  That is a great strategy we can all employ. Baring a life threatening injury, take the time to photograph what caused your injury with your phone. When doctors understand the mechanism of injury it gives them a better idea of what they are dealing with and what treatment methods would be most effective.

The most common injury in our shop's is going to be a serious cut.  If the blood is bright red and spurting out you have a serious situation.  If the blood is dark and pouring out, it's still serious, but you have a more time to make decisions.  Your first step should be to call for help.  After that cover the wound, preferably with something clean, like a towel.  If you truly dont have anything your hand will work. Provide firm steady pressure and don't remove whats covering it to see "how it's doing"  If the blood soaks through, add more on top of it.  If you can, elevate the wound above your heart.  If you still cannot control the bleeding the application of a tourniquet may be an option.

Back in the old days they use to teach us that tourniquets were the absolute last option because you risked losing the limb it was applied to.  Several wars and lots of research have proved that to be completely FALSE.  A tourniquet is an extremely effective way to control bleeding on an extremity.  

That is the tactic I used with my son.  I had an emergency med kit on my tactical vest that was in my car.  While my wife maintained pressure, I retrieved the tourniquet from it, and put it on him.  It quickly stopped the bleeding when pressure alone was not.  We then applied a pressure dressing, which is fancy way of saying we wrapped the towel covering the wound with an ACE bandage really tight, and moved him to the car and then transported him to the hospital.

You can buy a tourniquet on amazon and keep it in your tool belt.  They are small, light, cheap and very easy to use.  With a couple practice runs you'll easily be able to apply it to yourself with one hand.  I highly recommend you get one as just a regular part of your tool kit.  Take the time to learn when and how to use it!

The next most common and potentially life threatening injury is a puncture or impailment.  If it's just a puncture the same rules for controlling bleeding above apply here.  If it's an impailment, and by that I mean there is something sticking out of you, then a different strategy is needed.  Don't pull it out! leave it right where it is.  If the impailement has you stuck to a piece of equipment, do not pull yourself off of it.  Call for help immediately.  If you are not trapped against another object and can move, you want to stabilize the impaled item.  Don't go crazy, don't manipulate the object to try to get something around it to stabilize it.  Using your hands to keep it from moving is perfectly acceptable.  Get yourself immediate medical attention and remain calm!

If you suffer a puncture wound to the chest there are a few considerations.  If you are having extreme difficulty breathing or see or hear air escaping from your chest or being drawn in, you have most likely punctured your lung.  This is called a sucking chest wound.  the pressure difference inside and outside your body is actually drawing outside air in to the chest cavity.  This is further compressing your lung which is causing the difficulty breathing.  If left untreated, it is life threatening.  Call for help immediately! Ideally you need to cover this wound with an air proof dressing.  There are commercially available bandages for this injury called occlusive dressings, that have a one way valve that let air out of the chest cavity but do not let air back in.  however, you could use a piece of plastic, wax paper or even foil to cover the wound.  you can then manually "burp" the dressing to let the air out to improve lung function.  Controlling bleeding is still important so used direct pressure along with the air proof dressing.

Of course there are countless other injuries that can occur and we could spend hours what-if'ing things all day. I'm no doctor so I can't speak to how to treat all medical emergencies.  The things I have written here are meant as tips and not medical advice.  However, I think it's important that we all have some basic strategies to deal with the inevitable injuries that occur in our hobby.  Most will be minor that require the wound being cleaned and smeared with an antibiotic ointment and covered with a band-aid and then you can get back to work.  Sometimes though, and hopefully that day will never come for you, something more serious may occur.  Calling for help, remaining calm and providing some immediate care are critical to survival.  Educate yourself, work safely and be prepared to handle an emergency.

I'm going out to work on my boat.


  1. There are numerous classes available for the general public, which do not deal with very complex issues so they are easy to understand by anyone. Average citizens do not have to obtain any certificate, which further broadens the range of first aid courses they can choose from.
    first aid course sydney

  2. Don't risk your life, safety first. When you use any types of knife you should consider your knife safety.