The Safety X-Factor: Fatigue

Article - February 2, 2012

There was a time not too long ago when I thought I knew what “tired” was. Memories of taking exams while enjoying intravenous espressos after all-nighter study sessions come to mind. But since then, it’s pretty clear that I’ve been on easy street. Getting up at 6 am after a long night of playing World of Warcraft was about as bad as it got for me. But now that we have a baby, especially one that never wants to sleep, my definition of “tired” has changed dramatically. We are no longer talking about sleep deprivation alone, but the more complex and serious fatigue that can only come from having a crying baby scream in your face for hours on end. Why are government agencies bothering with water boarding? Just keep the prisoner from sleeping for 48 hrs and then have them hold Mateo for a few hours before a feeding. I swear you’ll get any information you want from them! Experienced parents are probably nodding their heads in sympathy or possibly having a good laugh right now, haha! Of course we know this phase will pass, but until it does I really need to be aware of how my fatigue affects shop safety. Being physically and mentally worn down is a VERY dangerous mix in the woodshop.

In the last month, I have injured myself more times than I have in the past few years! Now we’re not talking hospital visits here. Just small cuts and scrapes (mostly from hand tools) and a couple of close calls. Enough for me to take a step back and seriously evaluate how I feel before I step into the shop. If there is one thing I learned about myself, it’s that I have NO business being in the shop when I’m tired.

The problem with fatigue is it’s a little like being drunk. You may be a little more complacent than usual. You might make slightly more risky cuts. You might not set up all the proper safety devices. The phrase, “Its just one cut” will likely come out of your mouth. Even something as simple as having a weaker grip on your chisel or push stick could have dangerous ramifications. Basically, all of our safety training goes out the window if you compromise your ability to make good decisions and execute properly.

With this new appreciation for the effects of fatigue on safety, I am happy to say I have been making the decision to stay home much more often than usual. I guess I’ll just edit more video. Like my good buddy Ice Cube says, “Check yo self before you wreck yo self!”

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