Shop teachers response to the question about missing safety features "Its too expensive"...

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Forum topic by newbiewoodworker posted 11-20-2010 03:52 AM 2838 views 0 times favorited 34 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View newbiewoodworker's profile


668 posts in 3310 days

11-20-2010 03:52 AM

Within the next several days, we have, and are covering, the table saw, and getting cleared for use on it. However:

-The guard is busted, although it can still be moved over the blade… it just is a pain to move back and forth(not up and down.)
-The Splitter/Riving knife is missing(the guard is similar to Excaliber). And we are instructed in the saw’s use as if one isnt supposed to be there.
-The Dado insert is missing, I hope he will make one before setting us up with Stacked Dados… else I down right will refuse to use the damned thing…
-The fence wiggles…
-Surfaces arent waxed(not bad rust surprisingly.. very minor, in the mill marks)

I said I was surprised we hadn’t gotten a Saw Stop. Merely because with kids using it, there is bound to be an accident(a few years ago, the previous shop teacher took off the tip of his finger. A few years ago, another kid took off his thumb..) He said “its too expensive.” I then casually said about the liability, to which he agreed.. $1m over a severed thumb is alot more than the $3k for a saw.

But the riving knife/splitter missing is a different story… Not long after the first kid did his test, he gave a demo, where he threw a piece of wood on the blade.. it nearly KOed the Router Table, not to mention would have taken another kid out, had he not been told to move less than a minute before… I mean kickback can really do damage… not to mention it can drag a helpers hand through the blade, should they get caught up on the stock… Its not a luxury, its a safety concern.

The kicker is, he forgot to tell kids its missing the knife… most assume its not supposed to be there.

Now, he did tell us, that it is an optional machine to use. If we are even a wee bit nervous, he’d rather not have us use it, since its a bad machine to make a mistake on. Only 5 of us are comfortable… and Im only okay with it, because I know that many people dont use the knife, so its not a certain injury.

But I mean seriously… can schools be that tight budgeted…?

Once I get done the safety training, Im going to ask him, if we have a knife, that can be outfitted. It is definately an OSHA violation…

On a second note: Its funny, because he said to me the other day, that I am “quick, unlike others who are extremely cautious”... Yea, I am quick, but thats because I know my actions, and unlike most teens, Think ahead to the reprocussions. Like on the band saw, I am not afraid to reach around behind the blade, or stand to the right of the saw, and guide it through..
——- But at the same time, I think ahead, to the reprocussions, and that without proper safety devices, a serious injury can occur.
——————-Just like I asked him yesterday, why we arent required to pass the safety tests with a 100. I told him, to allow us to pass with an 80, is in essence saying, its Okay to leave here with 8 fingers.. 10pts a finger… He said that if he had his way, it would be. But it wasnt his call.

It just pisses me off, that schools want to be cheap with our safety, and make it so everyone can pass… But safety isnt something you can skate by on… There are no consulation prizes for missing limbs…

Okay, thats my rant for the day… lol

-- "Ah, So your not really a newbie, but a I betterbie."

34 replies so far

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3467 days

#1 posted 11-20-2010 06:30 AM

It is the Schools and the teacher’s responsibility To see that the equipment is in good safe operating condition. You should contact the local School Board, State Education Board, OSHA and possibly the State Attorney General if need be to keep others safe. The teacher evidently is negligent in his attitude towards his students safety. It sounds as though maintenance is a very low priority on the part of the school system. What we do in our own shops is one thing, but it a community type shop, safety and maintenance is vital for all users.
Which is probably why so many schools are doing away with shop classes. Give the teacher an F for failure of safety and yourself an A for thinking of safety first.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View Don's profile


517 posts in 3556 days

#2 posted 11-20-2010 06:33 AM

They aren’t being cheap. They’re being stupid. Good safety equipment is far cheaper than kids cutting off their fingers. Any school that can’t afford a Saw Stop can’t afford a wood working shop.

-- Don - I wood work if I could. Redmond WA.

View newbiewoodworker's profile


668 posts in 3310 days

#3 posted 11-20-2010 06:46 AM

I wouldnt completely mark him down to “F”... probably “D”, after all, he did say he would alter those tests if he could…

-- "Ah, So your not really a newbie, but a I betterbie."

View Manitario's profile


2778 posts in 3366 days

#4 posted 11-20-2010 06:55 AM

wow, that is super scary. How can he teach TS safety and not use a riving knife???? I think that 90% of TS safety is using the appropriate safety equipment and about 10% technique. Good on you for your own knowledge.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View Don's profile


517 posts in 3556 days

#5 posted 11-20-2010 07:14 AM

Shutting it down and having nothing would be better than kids cutting their fingers off. If they’re cutting corners in the woodshop they’re probobly doing it elsewhere too. They’re better off cutting one out completely and using the funds to make something else safe.

-- Don - I wood work if I could. Redmond WA.

View newbiewoodworker's profile


668 posts in 3310 days

#6 posted 11-20-2010 07:15 AM

Maybe I will do that… good idea… Ill confront him maybe Monday. I want to ask him if I can run a couple boards, for my cabinets, after school, perhaps Monday or Tuesday. Since I dont have a dado set, whereas the school does(its plywood, so its safe enough do do w/o a plate). If he says okay, then I will ask him then.

In essence: “I noticed a the TS is missing a splitter. I was wondering if perhaps we could chip n a few bucks, to get a proper safety feature. It would make it safer for us. A plug-and-play runs about $20”

-- "Ah, So your not really a newbie, but a I betterbie."

View 1yeldud1's profile


301 posts in 3525 days

#7 posted 11-20-2010 12:41 PM

AS a local school board member – I would suggest that you and your parents have a talk with the teacher and principal – be nice and just explain your safety concerns and what needs to be done to bring the machine back into specs. – if the situation continues have the same group meet with the local super. If the super blows you off – ask to be put on the school boards agenda for the NEXT meeting and plead your case to the full school board. SAFETY and liability is a big concern in school – Have the student make a full presentation to the board – HIMSELF – with his parents in attendance.

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2994 posts in 3921 days

#8 posted 11-20-2010 01:07 PM

Having worked in a school for 30 years I can tell you that the money is the issue. I needed safety goggles for science class one year for a new program. I made the mistake of telling the super that it wasn’t safe without the goggles. He cut the unit out of the curriculum. A response that I didn’t expect.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4644 days

#9 posted 11-20-2010 01:55 PM

safety is everyone’s responsibility – the school, the teacher, the student. No passing the buck here.
What are your options to ensure that everyone in the room is safe?

And be a creative problem-solver ... rather than saying “the school needs to have this to make it safe …. ” change it to “what can we do to make this safe?” .. that leaves the doors open to lots of options rather than it getting stopped at the “school funding”.

(The class is lucky to have you there!)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View rhett's profile


743 posts in 4150 days

#10 posted 11-20-2010 02:05 PM

Why not do what every other school program does when it’s low on funds…. fund raiser. Heck, tell us the make and model of the saw, chances are that with 20,000 woodworkers, the knife you need is sitting unused in someones garage on a machine that doesn’t work.

Getting officials involved will do little to help the program and will most likely result in the closing of yet another woodshop.

A shop built splitter, that attaches to the throat plate would be an easy and cheap fix until a riving knife is found.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View Uncle_Salty's profile


183 posts in 3556 days

#11 posted 11-20-2010 02:20 PM

Lots to comment on this topic. As a shop teacher (my 23rd year!), I can understand where both the student and the teacher are coming from. A bright student, as Newbie appears to be, would see the folly of not having proper safety equipment and the perils of “lesser talented students,” that would/will be greatly in danger if they allow their focus/concentration lapse even a small bit. Tough situation to be in.

The teacher is also in a tough jam. I’ll address the last item first: The safety test. I have had required safety tests with 100% correct requirements. Pure folly. In addition to keeping some kids out of the shop for 3 or 4 weeks, complete with phone calls from parents, visits by special ed teachers, meetings with adminsitrators, etc., you also have the supervisory problem of having students that passed this 100% requirement working in the shop, and the knuckleheads that couldn’t get 100% (even if you read them the test and then filled in the blanks for them) “loafing” in the classroom. You think the students that don’t pass the safety test are really going to study hard and get a 100% simply because they aren’t working in the shop? Not the way the education system allows us to work, is it? BTW… I can write a safety test that couldn’t be passed by anybody… or couldn’t be failed by anybody. Safety tests are non-referenced, and therefore, not a very effective method of indicating a students’ ability to be safe. It simply measures a students ability record, recall and regurgitate information in a given time frame.

All tools in my shop are optional. I cover them all (different levels of course; no use in teaching the 8th grade student the wood lathe or the shaper: they won’t get to use them until they get to upper level classes!), but I let usually let a student decide the best method to achieve a desired goal (Socratic method… trying to make thinkers out of them). If a kid wants to use the backsaw/chisel method to make a joint, I’ll let them (I teach them this, but it is before I get to the machine woods unit. Most kids see the efficiency of using machine tools, and choose the latter. However, some kids, even good students, don’t possess the confidence or skill to feel like they are comfortable enough to operate some tools.

A riving knife is a cheap safety investment, and can be made from scrap wood. Really can’t disagree with this point. No excuse to not have a splitter of some sort, whether it be a riving knife or a spiltter. The lack of such a device is simply laziness or ingnorance on the teacher’s part. Of course, I don’t know how many other preps the teacher has (drafting CAD mechanics welding machine shop) or other subject areas he teaches (science math PE Ag)... whether he drives a bus before/after school… or coaches three seasons (football basketball track!)... or has a second job to supplement his “hobby” known as teaching. Maybe my assessment of your teacher is a little presumptive.

Finally, the Saw Stop: pretty hard for me to walk into my Principals office and say “Mr. E: We need to spend $3500 on a new table saw.” Of course, I’d justify the rationale for the purchase, try to use Federal vocational monies or State aid or a grant to get the machine purchased, but I don’t know your teachers’ situation. And, in my State, the State Aid per student is expected to be cut another $375 between this year and next year. It is certainly not a good time to ask for the high end stuff… My pal, the PrinciPAL, might tell me that he can’t afford the program any longer, that NCLB and State Regents required coursework has squeezed him, and that I need to start looking for a new place to work.

Besides, I am pretty satisfied with the two Unisaws I currently have… guards and all!

Newbie… there really isn’t a Santa Claus! And, while I certainly wouldn’t do things the way your teacher is doing them, I can understand where he is coming from. I have seen a lot of things in my duration as a teacher at four different schools. Just understand that (I hope!) he is doing the best he knows how to do… or the best he can.

View canadianchips's profile


2627 posts in 3480 days

#12 posted 11-20-2010 03:00 PM

I am NOT taking sides with the school. BUT. That saw without the safety equipment is TEACHING you people how to be aware of what can happen.
When we were at school it had a perfect record of NO accidents since it opened. The year I went, we had 3 major injuries. The same FOOL cut his thumb in two, then planed his little finger OFF from knuckle to nail. No safety equipment in word WILL save that IDIOT from an injury. He was TOLD many times, he was shown mant times and yet he needed to learn the hard way ! The third injury was a piona stool being turned on lathe TOO fast. BLEW apart, broke the guys nose, marked the cement wall and destroyed work on OTHER side of shop (30 ft away) It was a bad year, I still remember these accidents today. (It was 35 years ago, idiots name was “JOHN ”
Go ahead and REPORT the school, just don’t be surprised if you have POOR marks at the end of the year. Its Your call.
I have never been an advocate of running and tattling,

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View Catspaw's profile


236 posts in 4298 days

#13 posted 11-20-2010 10:36 PM

Ultimately, a child is the parents responsibility, not some baby-sitting school. If you think the shop is unsafe…don’t send your kid to that class. If you think school funds are being spent incorrectly….like the metal shop got some safety stuff but the woodshop class your kid is in is short on funds…then get political with the school…or maybe better…pay for the safety stuff yourself….then decide how affordable it is.

This is an old story, always political in nature. Our government doesn’t spend our tax dollars correctly and neither does a school.

The cost of safety equipment was probably spent on something else that some other parent thought was a crime that THEIR kid wasn’t getting in school.

If everybody got everything needed, then everyone would complain about how high taxes were.

If I were the teacher, I would write a letter to every parent of the kids in my classes and tell them that the course is unsafe. I would tell them that if they want their children to attend that class and be safe, then, they need to get political and have something done about it…whether it’s a fund raiser (which I think would be the best deal to raise awareness of the situation) or make the school shift funds or take their kid out of the class if they didn’t like it.

I think the teacher is in the worst position. The teacher is supposed to teach the class, the school is supposed to support that teacher, the teacher can’t make the school do anything, but they are probably front line liable if anything happens….and they can’t just quit…so rock and a hard place.

The people are paying the school to do something for their kids. I don’t think it’s the teachers responsibility to ensure that happens. It’s their job to teach. The parents need to get the school to do something.

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist

View 1yeldud1's profile


301 posts in 3525 days

#14 posted 11-20-2010 10:43 PM

My stand is if a students in danger if being hurt because of an issue that the school CHOSE to iignore the district is LIABLE. As a board member I would DEMAND the problem be resolved. My guess is that the replacement parts could be ordered and that a temporary saw could be used (rented or leased from an individual or company) until the schools property was fixed. If it was a football helmet that needed replaced Im shure the school would “pounce” and purchase the required item.. If the shop teacher was guilty of using equipment that was considered “unsafe” because of neglect and a sutdent got hurt – im shure his or her job might just be in question – just my two cents worth.

View Pimzedd's profile


623 posts in 4626 days

#15 posted 11-21-2010 12:43 AM

As a retired “shop teacher” (34 years) and Career and Technical Education (Vocational) Administrator (6 years), I’m not sure where to start. I now make presentations to school administrators and teachers on “Shop/Lab Safety”;what to teach about safety and how to teach it.

Is the problem the teacher or the school? Sounds to me like the number one problem is the teacher. He is responsible and ultimately liable for safety in his class. The school is not liable in most states; schools have sovereign immunity. However, the Superintendent and Principal do not have immunity if they are aware of of the issue.

Let’s start with the safety test. A teacher that does not require 100% correct on safety test is setting himself up to loose a lawsuit. Like Uncle Salty said, a 100% passed safety test doesn’t guarantee a student’s safety, it just provides documentation in a lawsuit that the teacher taught the student and the student knew the rules.

Next a table saw with a guard that does not operate correctly. Maintenance of the equipment is first the responsibility of the instructor. If he is not able to make the needed repairs, he must report in writing (emails are great for this as they provide a paper trail) the issue and a recommended action. If the situation puts students at risk, the saw should be removed from service. If that means using hand or power tools, so be it. Again, the teacher is liable if he takes no action.

No dado insert. Is it missing or just not visible to Newbie? Maybe it is stored away for use as needed. Mine was. If missing, is cutting a dado without an insert dangerous?

Loose fence; a loose fence could cause a kickback. Once again a maintenance issue the teacher needs to address.

Unwaxed surfaces are probably not going to cause a safety issue. However, they do indicate an lack of maintenance on the part of the teacher. My students sanded mine with WD40 at the end of the year and waxed them twice a school year.

Now on to SawStop. I purchased five last year for my school district and budgeted for five more for this year. When those are purchased, all table saws in all the shops/labs will be SawStop. How did we pay for them? Public School Districts have access to Perkins Funds (federal money). That is what my district used, no local funds needed.

How about the kickback demo. I don’t like the method. I do not think the instructor could control all the factors such as a piece of wood that might splinter apart and go in multiple directions. I used to demonstrate with a piece of Styrofoam. Got the students attention with less danger.

Now this is specifically for Newbie. I am a little concerned with your belief that you are good enough to avoid accidents ie. reaching around a bandsaw, standing on the right side. Those were all safety violations in my class and rules on my bandsaw safety test.

Your statement, ”I am “quick, unlike others who are extremely cautious”… Yea, I am quick, but thats because I know my actions” worries me. My students that had similar beliefs tended to be OVERDCONFIDENT. I had a couple of students with similar beliefs that ended up getting stitches from a Doctor. Don’t let your opinion of your teacher’s teaching methods lead you to overestimate your abilities.

What can you do? Get your parents to schedule a meeting with the Principal. Of course that includes you as well. The principal needs to know, he/she may not be aware of the issue. If that gets no action, try the Superintendent. If that does not work, contact School Board members. 1yeldud1 is giving good advice from a school board member; especially the part about the students presenting the information. One word of caution, depending on the status of the class in the school or the school district, this could backfire and result in the program being closed. It happens! Is the easy way out for a school or a district.

One final thing, don’t call OSHA, OSHA rules don’t apply to public institutions like schools. I know, I tried to file a complaint when I was a teacher.

-- Bill - Mesquite, TX --- "Everything with a power cord eventually winds up in the trash.” John Sarge , timber framer and blacksmith instructor at Tillers International school

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