Workshop Safety for Kids
12 tips for making sure your pint-sized DIYer is protected
1. Keep dangerous tools off limits.
Other than lightweight drills and scrollsaws, most power tools are too heavy and dangerous for young kids to use by themselves. Putting locks on power plugs prevents them from being used when you're not around. Also, keep sharp-edged hand tools like utility knives and chisels locked up in tool chests.
2. Make eye protection a habit.
Like seatbelts in a car, eye protection should be mandatory for any child picking up a tool. Set a good example by wearing safety glasses yourself.
3. Dress right.
Roll up long sleeves, tuck in shirt tails, and button up shirt fronts so clothing doesn't get caught in the work. Tie back long hair for maximum visibility and safety. Wear protective closed-toe shoes or boots when working in the shop.
4. Supervise tool use.
Until you're sure a child has good control over a tool and knows the correct safety routines, keep an eye on him or her whenever a tool is being used. And if an accident does happen, have a fully stocked first aid kit in the shop with you. (You might need it as well.)
5. Show how to carry tools correctly.
Like scissors, tools should be carried with bits or blades pointing down and away from the body. Teach children to put down tools when it is not in use, and never to run in the workshop with a tool in hand.
6. Minimize distractions.
Ipods, pets, and siblings draw attention away from the task at hand and increase the chance of a mishap. A messy shop is also a distraction, and a hazard if tools can be knocked off benches or walls. Sweep up sawdust to avoid slips.
7. Use soft woods.
Hard woods such as oak, maple, and ash can be tough for kids to cut, drill, sand, and shape by themselves. They'll have an easier time working with pine, poplar, and cedar, to name only a few.
8. Cushion hammer blows.
Hammering nails is something kids seem to enjoy innately. A child will have better control over a lightweight (10 ounces or less) hammer than with a small "kid's hammer". A magnetic nail holder like the Thumbsaver keeps fingers safe from misplaced blows, and a tennis ball stuck on the claw end of the hammer prevents painful collisions with the child's head on the backswing.
9. Clamp the workpiece.
Holding the work and a tool is too hard for small hands. Steady the work in a vise or with clamps so that both hands can be on the tool. (This also keeps saw teeth away from fingers; see next tip. )
10. Start with a small handsaw
If you allow your child to use a handsaw, make sure it's short, sharp, and fine-toothed. Japanese, pull-type saws with more than 12 teeth per inch are easier to start and less likely to snag. Caution children to always work with two hands on the handle, which provides better control and keeps fingers away from the teeth, so make sure the saw's handle is big enough handle for a doubled-up grip.
11. Lower the work table
Kids need a working surface that's positioned at a comfortable height so they have better control of their tools and can easily see what they're doing.
12. Keep cleanup in mind.
Choose water-based paints, stains, and glues. They're a lot easier to clean up than solvent-based materials (as long as you wash them off before they dry). And they're safer, too.