Home Workshop Health and Safety (part 1)


Everywhere we work these days, workplace safety is probably hammered into us the most. How much of this do we take home with us and apply in our own shed or home environment?. It was not until I became older that I personally, started to practice what I preached at work, at home. Back in 1995, a racing accident that saw me unable to work for 5 months certainly got me thinking about my own personal safety outside of the workplace. However, in some instances it may have already been too late as the damage was already done. I, and others, took things for granted that today have us searching for answers to our ailments and complaints.


I have just spent the last 9 weeks unable to work in my workshop after breaking both bones holding my rh ankle to my leg. The plaster came off after 6 weeks but then still could not walk unassisted due to the side effects of 2 DVT’s (deep vein thrombosis) in my leg.


The scary part was how easy it all happened. 2 days after Xmas I was over at Keith Fludders place, standing at a bench twisting a damascus billet with a pair of Stillsons, the jaw on the Stillsons broke and all my weight kept travelling to the floor on my right side, however my foot didn’t want to move, twisting then breaking the bones off the ankle. The jaw had cracked at the end of a weld holding the added handle on to assist in the twisting. Did I check the Stillsons before swinging all my weight off them-NO. Had I inspected the jaw or the welded handle I may have seen the crack and instead of 3 days in hospital and an ankle looking like a hardware store, I could have spent the xmas holidays making some more damascus and forging out some blades with Keith. In other words, take the extra 5 minutes and check all your tooling and machines every day before use.

Another area that I now suffer is with Tinitus or ringing in the ears. Officially, the medical profession admit they cannot say for sure what triggers it but believe it is caused by damage to the ear from excessive exposure to noisy environments. In my case that is most likely true. I remember walking around the farm as a 14yr old with a mate shooting, and when a shooting rest was required, you offered your shoulder. Did I wear earplugs or muffs back then-No. Years of working on earthmoving machinery and drag racing, I still wore no hearing protection. Now, a lot of things just flat out annoy me, my grinders, a hammer striking the anvil, loud music, having the car window down. Now, most likely through having ignored all the warnings over the years, no longer is there such a thing as “peace and quiet”.

One thing we do as knifemakers is contaminate our working environment with all manner of air born particles. Hands up how many of us have spent time at the grinder with out wearing a respirator?? I know I have.

My good friend, ABS Mastersmith Ed Caffrey, just recently underwent an operation to remove a tumour from one of his lungs which the specialists assured him was most likely caused through the ingestion of particles whilst grinding with out using a respirator. Luckily for Ed it was caught early before it became cancerous; however as a full time maker, it has also hurt him in the hip pocket.

I believe we have lost a few members of our own knifemaking community from similar lung ailments. We only have 2 ears and 2 lungs, but more importantly only 1 lifetime, and no one wants to spend any of that lifetime suffering from an illness or recovering from life threatening sickness brought on by our own ignorance whilst pursuing our passion for knifemaking.

At the moment I am trialling a few different forms of respirators and hearing protection suitable for use in a home workshop environment and will report on my choices in the next newsletter. Until then please do a quick audit on your self and your working environment so you don’t end up with stories like mine.

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