YW General Wood Shop Safety | Unit 1j

Hazardous Chemicals and Waste



When you finish your class project, you will possibly go on to use various chemical finishing products to protect the wood and enhance its look.

While some of the chemical products you use in a wood shop are relatively safe to work with (such as waxes and wood fillers), others can be hazardous to you and to the environment if they are not handled and disposed of correctly.


Where to get information - Understanding Labels and Safety Data Sheets

Before you start working with an unfamiliar chemical product, read the label - it will summarize potential hazards. You should also look up the Safety Data Sheet, (which is often called a Materials Safety Data Sheet or MSDS). An SDS will give you more detailed safety information about the chemical product than you will find written on the label.

If you have not worked with a chemical product in class before, make sure it is OK with your teacher. Here are some examples of the types of hazards you may encounter, their labels, effects and examples in a wood shop:




These products could catch fire if they are exposed to an ignition source such as high heat, flames or sparks. When working with these materials, make sure you are working in a fume hood or spray booth, which will safely vent the flammable fumes outside.

When you are through working with these products, store them in containers with lids that can be sealed tight, and put them away in a cabinet for flammable materials.

Examples of flammable products you will find in a shop:
Solvents (Mineral spirits, lacquer thinner, turpentine, denatured alcohol, oil based paints, wood stains, varnish, shellac, lacquer)




Toxic Materials
Different types of toxic materials can affect you in a variety of ways. Symptoms can range from headaches and feeling dizzy to more serious reactions such as asthma attacks. Over a long time, you could even develop cancer. Avoid getting these products on your skin by wearing gloves when possible. Avoid inhaling toxic fumes by working in a fume hood, spray booth, or - if these are not available - work outside in a well-ventilated area.

Examples of toxic products you will find in a shop:
Solvents: In addition to being flammable, they can also affect your nervous system. (Mineral spirits, lacquer thinner, turpentine, denatured alcohol) 




These substances can either be acids or bases. They can destroy your skin, clothes, and even your metal watch band. Vapors from these products may irritate or burn your lungs if inhaled. Wear gloves and safety glasses or goggles, and be careful not to splash.

Examples of corrosive products you may find in a shop:
Wood bleaches


Hazardous waste

Because many of these products can damage the environment, they may be considered hazardous waste when it is time to dispose of them or the rags you may have used. Always dispose of them safely and legally. Never pour chemicals down the drain or onto the ground when you are finished working. Let your teacher know that you need to dispose of them and he or she will handle this job for you.


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