Saturday, February 27, 2010

Don't Poison Yourself, Stupid - Wood Shop Safety

Now we all know about the poisons that are around the typical woodshop. The stains, the lacquers, the sealers, the thinners, the strippers, the occasional exotic wood. And most of us, hopefully, have enough sense to use masks, or respirators, or gloves, or to otherwise protect ourselves.

This isn't about any of that.

This is about a much more insidious poisoning.

Now I clean my shop, 3,4 sometimes 5 times a week. Sometimes I feel like my job is sweeping, not woodwork. But we all have that nook or cranny or shelf in the back or way up high that we just never seem to get to.

Well in my case that shelf is on the top of a pallet rack about 12 feet high. Hence, the reason I never get up there. But last week I needed a box from up there. So feeling like a 10-yr-old monkey, I climbed up the side of that pallet racking, reached up there threw the box off and dumped 5 years of dust in my face.

Now we don't really think of dust much when it comes to poison. But let's think about what's in this dust. Yes, I now use the carb-green sheet goods like the rest of the state is required to do. But 5 years ago, let's face it, it was all formaldehyde, insecticides and god knows what else they put in that stuff.

But that's just the obvious stuff. Remember this is 12 feet up. And since I'm not storing sawdust, this is all micro-fine. You know the 1-3 micron range. The stuff they tell you, "wood causes cancer". So, yeah, there was old sheet goods, but how much of it was also oak and walnut (tanic acid) or 10 or 15 exotics: lacewood, ebony, bloodwood, ambonya all the stuff that will give you severe skin rashes. Yeah, they've all been in my shop too. Not to mention, anything that leaves as a fume lands somewhere and sawdust, we all know, is great at absorbing those things. So not only did I get all of the wood and whatever comes in that, but all of the residual chemicals that they soaked up for those five years.

So what was on that top shelf? Cancer, in powder form.

Now, anybody with common sense would have suggested, "Hey, use a mask" or "Hey, get a respirator". Yeah, I have both of them in the shop. No, nobody suggested it. No, I didn't think of it. After all, I only see this shelf about once every five years, "How bad could it be? All I've got to do is get a box down."

And so it's been four days of a sore throat so bad that I'm reduced to eating just one small meal a day. Hacking up parts of my body I didn't know I could live without. Eating cough drops like they are paying me an endorsement. Missing a day and a half worth of work and feeling my strength at about 50% loss.

Hey stupid, learn from the idiot who came before you.

Put your mask on, and clean that dusty old corner before you inhale that corner.

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