Common Hand Tool Woodworking Injuries and How to Prevent/Treat Them

While woodworking is a word synonymous with craftsmanship and artistry, there is another side to it that not a lot of people think about. While not typically considered one of the most dangerous jobs, woodworking can have its perils. If you think about what they do, it only makes sense. When using all the sharp tools and machines that can cut through wood and shape it, of course, there’s going to be injuries here and there. The best woodworkers learn the trade and learn how to use the machines so that they can be safe and productive. Accidents always happen though, so you should never allow yourself to become distracted. Make sure that you’re always using the proper safety precautions with any tool that you use because the shop is not the place to lose focus. That can cost you dearly, depending on the piece of equipment you’re using.

According to this research, there are somewhere around 720,000 injuries every year in woodworking. These injuries can cause functional and psychologic impairments. According to a study that involved a thousand injured woodworkers, around 60. 5% of all the injuries happened to amateur woodworkers. The fact is, that many amateurs or beginning woodworkers don’t focus on the safety aspect of the job. This is why you should always read up on a tool before using it. There are so many items out there that are involved in woodworking that can be dangerous to you.  In writing this article, hopefully, it will be able to provide the entire group with more information on specific injuries and how to prevent and treat them.

The Missing Digit

There is a multitude of tools that can cause amputations in a woodshop. Whether it be a tip of a finger or an entire hand, this is the foremost danger when working with cutting tools. If you work with anything like electric miter saws, circular saws, table saws, jigsaws or even hand-operated saws of different types, they will have the capability of removing a digit. Although these types of saws are dangerous, there are a few things that can be done to improve these odds. When using a saw, you always want to make sure that you have your wood secured with clamps so that it can’t move. You always want to make sure that you can use both hands to control the saw. Check your wood to make sure there is no debris embedded in it so that it won’t recoil and increase your chances of injury.

When using a table saw, ensure that the guides are properly adjusted and secured. Once the edge of the wood reaches the table always use a push stick. Be sure that the blade is adjusted to the proper height of the wood and the stop switch is within reach. These small steps will help even the newest of woodworkers to prevent injuries. One of the main things that cause injuries is not having their saws adjusted correctly. Injuries can also be caused by improper use. Even with hand saws, the way that you have to apply pressure to get the saw to cut through the wood can be an issue. If you don’t have the wood stabilized or positioned correctly, there is an increased risk of the blade getting stuck or bent. When this happens, there is a higher risk of accidents.

Preventive Measures

To stop your equipment from getting jammed or slipping, you need to make sure that the wood is secure and your guides are clamped down. You also want to make sure that the equipment is appropriately sharpened. If it’s not sharp enough to do what it’s supposed to, you’re going to run into issues as well. Now you may be thinking “well that’s kind of counterintuitive” because a sharper tool has less resistance when cutting your digit off. While this may be true, this also makes it less likely to slip or recoil, especially circular saws or table saws. If the blades are not sharp, they tend to push back. I hope with all of this information, that you will look at the different adjustments and upkeep that you can do for your tools which will also help lower the possibility of a physical injury.

First Aid

A first aid kit is needed in every shop, it should be well stocked and easy to access. You never know when an accident will happen. Even with you doing everything the proper way, accidents can occur. This could be a cut, puncture or an amputation. The first thing you want to do when an injury occurs is to stop the bleeding. If an accident does occur, make sure someone calls Emergency Services. Once Emergency Services is on the way, continue to treat the wound. If there is an amputation, once you make sure that the wound is packed with cotton gauze and you have tried to stop the bleeding, it is important to try to find the amputated part. Once located, it should be wrapped in cotton gauze and put on ice. This will help preserve the tissue so that if there is a possibility, it can be reattached.

Cut, Puncture or Skewer Wounds

By Laurence Facun - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, next type of severe wound would be a cut, puncture or skewer. This type of wound occurs frequently in wood shops because of such tools as screwdrivers, chisels, nail guns, and things such as that. But, there’s another thing that can cause just as many problems. The wood itself can be dangerous. Broken off pieces of wood or even splinters can cause a lot of damage if you’re not protected properly. You should always shy away from woodworking if you don’t have the appropriate clothing on. Protective clothing can be a godsend when it comes to these types of injuries. Like with amputations, a lot of this depends upon your willingness to take the few steps that will reduce the likelihood of you being injured.

You should always make sure that you were wearing safety goggles. Protect your eyes, without them you won’t be doing woodworking. Make sure if you’re using a tool that it’s pointed away from you. Ask yourself “if the tool slips or breaks, will any part hit me” If so reconsider your positioning.  If you’re working with something like a nail gun, always make sure that any projectile will miss you. Nail guns, in particular, have a pretty serious track record. A study showed nail gun injuries have multiplied since 2001. Around 2005 the number peaked at 40,000 injuries. During the study, they realized these were not occupational injuries which stayed the same, but 40% of the 40000 injuries occurred in do-it-yourselfers.

Cut, Puncture, and Skewer First Aid

Cuts and Scrapes

As stated above, you should always have a good first aid kit in any shop. If it’s a minor cut or scrape, you can get away with just peroxide or alcohol. Afterward, apply a Band-Aid or steri-strips to help hold it together. More serious cuts may require stitches. If the cut is more than a quarter of an inch deep or if it does not stop bleeding within 15 minutes of applying pressure, then you would need to seek medical help because it is a more serious wound. This, of course, can also depend upon the placement of the wound. If it’s on your face or visible area and you’re more concerned about it, definitely get to the doctor. They should be able to close it up. Most wounds need to be taken care of within 6-8 hours of the injury.

Puncture Wounds

If a puncture wound does occur depending on the severity, you may need to see a doctor. Either way, you want to use cotton gauze to wrap the area and stop the blood. If it’s not serious enough for you to go to the doctor once you stop the bleeding, then clean the wound with peroxide or even rubbing alcohol to kill any bacteria. Once you’ve cleaned the wound and debrided it, reapply clean cotton gauze and wrap the area with a bandage. If it’s a minor wound, a Band-Aid may be sufficient. However, if it is a major wound, before you do any of this, call Emergency Services, especially if the bleeding will not stop. Some wounds need professional medical attention.


If you are skewered on the hand, finger or any other part of the body, never try to pull the object out. It could be hitting some underlying structures, so the best course of action is to seek medical help. Call Emergency Services, then take gauze and pack around the item to make sure it’s stabilized. Once this is done, wrap the entire area, this will also stabilize the piece. Once you get to the hospital, the doctor will assess the amount of damage done and decide on the best course of action to remove the object. You should know that if you pull it out on your own, there is a good chance you could bleed out and do more damage to yourself or even die. I can imagine that this is not something that you would like to happen, so let the doctors take care of it.

The Burns that Matter

Most people don’t think about all of the things in a shop that can cause a burn. This can range anywhere from electrical burns, chemical burns, and even heat or thermal burns. There is a range of different things that can cause these types of burns. If you think about it, everything that you’re using creates friction which creates heat. Not to mention all of the chemicals and electrical devices that you would use when building something. There are different degrees of burns depending upon how severe they are. A first-degree burn basically affects the top layer of skin and presents as an uncomfortable red patch. Second-degree burns affect the dermis and the epidermis. These burns are typically more severe and tend to blister more, causing a lot of pain.

Third-degree burns are the worst, other than full body burns. This type of burn goes all the way down to the underlying structures of the body. With third-degree burns, a lot of times you’ll more severe damage done to the skin or even charring. Most of the time the first-degree burn is not severe, but the second or third-degree burn will definitely need to be seen by a medical professional. These types of burns will cause a great deal of pain, inflammation, and sometimes even open wounds. This is why it is important to have them checked out by a doctor, especially if they are covering a large section of the body. Trust me, if that’s the case, you will definitely want to see a doctor.

By The original uploader was K. Aainsqatsi at English Wikipedia.(Original text: K. Aainsqatsi) - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.(Original text: self-made), CC BY-SA 3.0, First Aid

First Degree Burns

Once again, the most important piece of equipment in the shop is the first aid kit. If you do get a minor or first-degree burn, the first thing you want to do is soak the wound in cool water for about 5 minutes. With this type of burn, there can be some pain. If this is the case, then take some ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain relief. Apply aloe vera cream with lidocaine to the area to help soothe the skin. At this point, you should put antibiotic ointment on the affected area and apply a loose gauze to it. With a burn, you never want to wrap the area tight because there can be some swelling and it could affect circulation.

Second Degree Burns

With a second-degree burn, it tends to be more serious and will include the forming of blisters and swelling, which can cause a lot more pain. If it is a mild second-degree burn, you may still be able to treat it at home. You will want to keep it under cold water for approximately 15 minutes and take some over-the-counter pain medication. Apply a good coat of antibiotic cream to the blistered areas. Having said that, if the second-degree burn is widespread such as on the hands, feet, groin, face or buttocks, you should still seek medical treatment. With this type of burn, there is a higher risk of infection.

Third Degree Burns

Third-degree burns are a very different story. This type of burn extends through to the underlying structures in the body such as muscles or even bone. They can present with a waxy white color, charring, be dark brown in color, have a raised and leathery texture or have blisters under the skin. With this type of burn, there is no home remedy. You need to call Emergency Services right away. This type of burn needs to be treated by a medical professional.

Blunt Force Trauma

While this is not one of the more common injuries, it can be very serious. Blunt force trauma can range anywhere from broken fingers to a concussion. All it takes is one slip of your concentration to let a board lock up on a blade and kick back, If you’re standing in the wrong position, the likelihood is, you’re going to get hurt. If you are impacted by a piece of wood depending on the severity of the problem, you should always seek medical attention, especially if you feel like there’s a broken bone or if you were knocked unconscious.

First Aid

If you do witness someone getting knocked out or you get knocked out by a blow to the head, call Emergency Service to get them on the way. Never move that person, because you never know what damage has been done. There could be spinal or skull injury that you could make worse. In this case, the first thing you want to do is check and make sure they’ve got a pulse, If necessary begin CPR. If there’s bleeding, apply pressure with a clean cloth. In the case that the person wakes up, keep them still or at least try to. They should always wait until the paramedics can check them out before they start moving around. You never know, there may be a need for more rigorous medical help

If you think there’s a bone broken, call emergency services. At that point, stabilize the affected area to keep the appendage still. If it is a compound fracture and a bone is sticking through the skin you still need to apply pressure to stop the bleeding. This, of course, will cause a great deal of pain, but it needs to be done. Try to keep the patient stable until the paramedics arrive.

In Conclusion

Having done this for years, there are many injuries which can befall a woodworker. Hopefully, this will help guide you into the next phase of your woodworking. Always use the equipment properly and it will help reduce the possibility of injury. If your anything like me, you can’t afford to get hurt. This is what I do for a living. So, just remember this, stay safe and make sure that you are doing the job right and doing it with no injuries.

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