This topic cannot be brought up enough, and I have a second dimension to add: shop safety with kids! We adults all know that safety glasses, ear plugs, respirators, aprons, work boots, and proper gloves are the main safety tools for any metal shop work (and other shop work, too). But what about the little ones? Children, grandchildren, or even young students you might have in for a workshop? So much comes into play, but here are a few of my mainstay rules; take them or leave them, or only use half. The goal in the end for all, is safety that works!
Train Them Young: Start them with small hand tools – real hand tools – at a few years old. We bought our eldest son at the age of 4 a set of child-size but real tools for Christmas. The hammer had a metal head. The drill was hand-crank but had real bits and could really drill through wood. There was a real saw…that we confiscated. Ha! But we also let them handle knives at our rendezvous with supervision while they whittle sticks. And you know what? They have yet to get an injury.
Get Them In The Shop: My youngest started to spend time in the tin and copper shop when he was 18 months old. My kids behave, and they did not run around the shop touching things, so that made it easy. But they also have watched us work with tools and metal, and have become familiar with the terms, the tools, and the activity. They aren’t afraid to try and build things from scratch, and they now come in and know what tools they are allowed to use and what is their level of ability. They always ask permission, even to use certain hammers. But that comes from slowly getting used to physically being around everything.
Mandatory Safety Equipment: I always require safety glasses even if all they are doing is hammering. They wear garden gloves if they need hand protection, because those can be bought for little hands and are usually 100% cotton so they don’t catch fire easily. They never operate any power tools without permission; I don’t allow it at all actually until they are 10. And after that, only specific ones like the drill or the bead blasting cabinet, with adult supervision.
Let Them Try: When my daughter turned 5, she requested that she finally be allowed to use the soldering iron. I said yes, and gave her a very stern but short list of rules: use flux, wear safety glasses, and NEVER touch anything but the black handle. Anywhere else will burn you. Well, you guessed it. She did burn herself; nothing too bad, and nothing 5 hours in a swimming pool that night didn’t fix. And she still will pick up that soldering iron today, but she’s a lot more careful. I did allow this activity, with supervision, because I knew that even if she did burn herself, it was going to teach her to respect tools more, and likely the injury wouldn’t be as bad as, say, the use of a buffing wheel. Use your best judgement, but don’t be afraid to let them get a bit of hands-on experience.