Before a task is addressed, (with sharpening an implement or any other activity) the first and foremost concern is one of safety. There is nothing more important than protecting yourself from harm. Ironically sharpening knives and the like are actually a safety measure in and of themselves as dull blades are the most dangerous. It is imperative that the sharpener keep themselves safe by following very simple guidelines.
Here is a list of the most common safety issues in the sharpening process and how to protect yourself from injury. With many years of experience, I can assure you that patience and common sense are key.
Lighting - Be able to see your work space clearly. Sharpening anything will take practice and a well lit area will give you confidence in your skills and allow you to observe any potential dangers or blade concerns.
Masks - There are many harmful elements in the various forms of steel we will be working with. Particles will enter the air and can be absorbed into your body through breathing. Heavy metals are extremely hard for the body to process and can create a toxic environment in your organs. There are many varieties of safety masks on the market and it is paramount that one be chosen prior to any sharpening activity. You can choose a mask that is adjustable with exchangeable filters or at a minimum a disposable standard safety mask with a nose clip and an elastic secure strap. Make sure it fits snug over the nose and mouth so the microscopic particles are not inhaled.
Protective glasses - Metallic filings are no doubt harmful to the body and no greater exposure exists than our eyes. The occasional shard of steel or metal dust floating in the air can be an uncomfortable irritant at best or cause permanent damage at worst. Protective eye wear must be worn at all times when using the sharpening technique. Because of the speed of the sharpening belt damage can occur very quickly when compared to sharpening a tool with a stone or file. Therefore respect the equipment by protecting your eyes from any errant shard.
Electrical- Overloading a power strip or using old outdated outlets for powering your equipment could cause damage by shock or fire. Make sure all power tools are plugged into an appropriate socket that is able to support the required voltage.
Distractions - Many injuries occur because focus is diverted from the task at hand. Please avoid this by being committed to the sharpening process and nothing else.
Footwear - Open toe shoes are not acceptable and should never be one when working with sharp objects anywhere anytime. Always your shoes or boots that do not expose any part of the foot in case a sharp or dull knife or tool is dropped by accident.
Aprons - Clothing such as apron service should be worn at all times. Although there’s no real danger to our bodies except the obvious, metal dust can accumulate on our clothes and being held later or others following the session of sharpening.
Manufacturer's Warnings - Always follow guidelines set out by a particular manufacturers. They’re wanting to determined by issues that may or may not an instance that has surfaced in the past and deserve our complete attention.
Medicinal Influences - Never use power tools when under the influence of any prescription medication that can alter your dexterity. Judgment and focus are vital to not only protecting yourself but others as well. Accidents happen very quickly when working with machinery and anything that impedes focus can be dangerous.
Technique - This sharpening technique is designed for efficiency, accuracy, and ease. Always use common sense when using these techniques and do not try to rush the already time-saving design.