Skip to Content

Shop & Studio Safety


A number of our students engage in "hands-on" learning experiences as part of their education at the University of Virginia. In fact this trend is on the increase at the University. Introducing technological advances and robust powered equipment to the marginally "hands-on" experienced student can present some challenges.

University faculty and staff who create and oversee these experiences have a responsible role to recognize risks inherent in the tasks, processes and environment and to prepare accordingly to prevent injuries as a result of these risks. Injuries can be very significant when powerful equipment is used (such as amputations if equipment is not properly guarded or the operator is insufficiently trained). A fatality can even occur because of the extent of injuries or from an electrocution if protective covers are removed exposing live conductors or equipment wiring is damaged. Here are just a few of the many hands-on learning experiences our students pursue.

UVA Policies applicable to Shop & Studio Safety

Hands-on Learning at UVA


Drama Department
Students work with faculty and staff to construct awesome stage sets.
In addition to building set designs out of wood, students also weld and assemble metal structures.


Architecture School
Learning Barge under construction on the Elizabeth River, Norfolk, VA.


Engineering School
Ride Forward Program, it's Electric!


Classroom project to research, design and construct creatures.


UVA Depts. of Drama, Studio Art, and the School of Architecture were
proud to co-develop the interdisciplinary classroom project for
the first ever Stan Winston Arts Festival of the Moving Creature.


Winston makes his debut with his creators in the Creature Parade around Grounds.
(April 20th 2013)

Why is this so important?

A Popular Mechanics [PM] article [10/09/2008], reported that with the new revolution of Do It Yourself (DIY) individuals, there has been a significant rise in injuries with the use of power tools. Most DIY do not have the years of experience and skills of professional carpenters and wood workers. This is a similar situation for our students. They have the challenge to become proficient on multiple and inherently dangerous equipment that is made accessible for their projects, research and extracurricular activities. The PM article highlights one sobering statistic on table saws: There are about 600,000 injuries per year and 3,000 of those injuries result in amputations. This type of equipment as well as other cutting saws is accessible to students for "hands-on" shop experiences in areas such as: Drama, Art Studio, Architecture School, Bio Medical Engineering, Engineering and Physics machine shops, auto shops and other similar areas.

UVA students using good safety practices to operate a Table Saw.
Students are using push sticks to safely move the material through the cutting blade;
the blade guard is in place and the saw is hooked up to local exhaust ventilation (LEV).

Due to the severity of risks when using powerful equipment (i.e. lathes, cutting saws, welding, etc.) mistakes can be irrevocable and even result in a fatality. Unfortunately, fatalities have occurred at other Institutions that provide "hands-on" learning experiences in shops and laboratories.

Death of College student at Yale University (2011) – Yale University President Richard Lewis made this statement through the University's Public Affairs Office.

"Last night Michele's hair got caught in a lathe as she worked on a project in the machine shop…her body was found by other student's working in the building. They responded immediately and called the police".

Mr. Lewis continued to express the University's "paramount concern for their students' safety" and as such he initiated a thorough review of safety policies and practices of labs, machine shops and other shops where power equipment is accessed and operated by undergraduates, this included arts and science facilities. This accident occurred in the early morning hours and the student was alone in the shop. She had received training on the equipment she was working on and was considered proficient.

However, she did not have her hair properly secured and it got caught in the lathe leading to her death. Our University Policy encourages that students never work alone. Another individual's presence may have been able to make a difference in the fateful outcome, perhaps a friendly reminder of the safety rules to secure hair or to have cut off the machine.

What can you do to provide a safe learning "hands-on" environment?

To avoid any unfortunate incident at our Institution requires a successful balance between the pursuit of knowledge and creativity and implementing appropriate safety measures and oversight for our students. The accompanying University Policy: Safety of Students Working in Laboratories, Shops and Studios provides safety considerations and initiatives. All areas of Safety are important and work together to achieve the safest environment and process feasible.

Key elements include:

  • A careful review of potential and recognizable hazards;
  • Removing hazards to create a working and learning environment free of risk of injuries (this is an active and ongoing process);
  • Developing training to help students become safely proficient when operating power equipment made available to them;
  • Developing and conveying relevant safety procedures, rules and expectations to the students;
  • Provide knowledgeable oversight and monitoring of students when working in areas where there is hazardous equipment, processes or environments.

Assistance is always available from EHS personnel and is strongly encouraged.

Prevent accidents with power tools and equipment

Accidents with power tools almost always involve things that could have and should have been avoided. Everyone at UVA needs to be responsible to use all equipment as intended and designed by the equipment manufacturer. Equipment Operator manuals should always be available and consulted to ensure proper operation. In fact, Virginia Occupational Safety & Health (VOSH) General Industry Standards requires us, the Employer (UVA), "to comply with the manufacturer's specifications and limitations applicable to the operation, training, use, installation, inspection, testing, repair and maintenance of all machinery, vehicles, tools, materials and equipment.

Virginia Administrative Code 16VAC 25-60-10; Part III Occupational Safety and Health Standards - Section 120 General Industry Standards

Machine Guarding

Guards must never be removed from power equipment

In fact, most seasoned professionals such as carpenters and woodworkers are injured as a result of removing a guard to execute a perceived difficult cut. Shops are encouraged to purchase equipment that offer the best safety features. Consult with others on grounds and you will soon learn what some of the state of the art equipment includes – (i.e. SawStop)!

Always keep guards on points of operation and power transmission devices.

  • Points of operation: the point where work is performed on the material, such as cutting, shaping, boring, or forming of stock
  • Power transmission devices: the power transmission apparatus is all components of the mechnical system which transmit energy to the part of the machine performing the work. These components include flywheels, pulleys, belts, connecting rods, couplings, cam spindles, chains, cranks, and gears.

Protective covers must always be in place on electrical equipment so that the operator cannot come into contact with energized wiring. Manufacturers of equipment, with the potential for shock hazards, will post hazard warning statements to not bypass electrical protective covers. Heed the warning for your safety and those you oversee in your work area!

Caution: Prevent electric shock do not remove cover.
Refer servicing to qualified service personnel.

Machine Guarding OSHA eTool.

Safety Tips for Shop Environments

Extremely important safety tips to implement in shop environments!

  • Maintain proper preventive maintenance on equipment.
  • Keep all cutting blades sharp for best performance.
  • Always direct hand cutting tools and hand power tools away from the body.
  • Maintain proper working clearance around power equipment.
  • Secure work pieces when working to the extent feasible and use appropriate aids to push stock safely through cutting blades.
  • Use local exhaust ventilation (LEV) to capture dust, chemicals, and welding fumes at the source.
  • Use equipment manufacturers' accessories that can secure work pieces and avoid kickbacks.
  • Maintain safe egress out of the facility at all times. Good and ongoing housekeeping will help to assure safe egress as well as prevent slips and trips.
  • Create and post emergency response procedures including: how to respond in the event of an injury, fire or other incident that may be anticipated.


Required Training

University faculty, staff, and students who work in a Shop or Studio where: chemicals are used or where Hazardous (Chemical) Waste is generated, are required to complete the following training module (or have properly documented completion of analogous training) in order to be considered in compliance with University of Virginia policy1.

1Two specific UVA policies define the Chemical Safety Training requirements for select University faculty, staff, and students. These policies are as follows:

Recommended Training

UVA-specific Recommended Training

UVA personnel who assign projects and have oversight responsibilities in work areas are encouraged to assign persons to complete these module as appropriate.

  • Shop & Studio - Safety Orientation
    • Recommended training for students who perform hands-on projects such as: building and fabrication, and will use potentially hazardous equipment and machinery. This training will enhance awareness of risks in these types of working environments and precautionary measures to avoid injuries.
  • PPE - Eye Protection
    • Recommended training for persons who utilize areas where there is the potential for exposure or injury due to chemical or physical hazards. Training includes guidance on how to choose the appropriate eye protection for your application.
  • PPE - Glove Selection
    • Recommended training for persons who utilize laboratory, studio and/or shop spaces where there is the potential for hand injuries due to chemical and/or physical hazards. Training includes guidance on how to choose the appropriate glove for your application, and best practices when using gloves.
  • PPE - Physical Hazards
    • Recommended training for persons who utilize laboratory, studio and/or shop spaces where there is the potential for injury due to physical hazards. Training provides an awareness of various physical hazards, safe work practices, and preventative measures to mitigate the risk of injury.
  • Chemical Safety - Chemical Storage: A General Guideline
    • Recommended training for persons who work with chemicals and/or manage the storage of chemicals. Training includes guidance on how to properly segregate incompatible chemicals and locations for proper storage.
  • Chemical Safety - Compressed Gas Cylinder and Regulator Safety
    • Recommended training for persons who work with compressed gas cylinders. Training includes guidance on: how to store, move and secure cylinders properly, choosing and attaching the appropriate regulators for the gas type, and checking for gas leaks after regulator attachment.
  • Chemical Safety - Housekeeping Practice in Research Labs
    • Recommended training for persons using laboratory space. Training emphasizes the importance of good housekeeping practice and the implications to overall safety when an area is poorly maintained. Advice is given on how to properly maintain laboratory space.

UVA Biomedical Engineering, Professor Guilford, has graciously made these equipment training videos available. Comments from Professor Guilford: - "We produced the following two videos, and required students to take a quiz over the material before beginning work in the shop. Not only did their quiz grade count toward their course grade, but they were prohibited from working in our shops until they got a score of >70%. We found that student knowledge and safety compliance increased noticeably with these videos compared to in-person demonstrations to groups of students".

Equipment Safety Resources

Safety Resources Available on the Web

The University of Virginia Art Studio, a division of the Art Department in Arts & Sciences, has tools and equipment Safety Procedures posted on their Art Studio Safety website. Art Studio and Gallery Technician, Eric Schmidt has included resources such as schematics of wood working equipment, power tools and hand tools and operation instructions. There is also guidance on PPE to wear when using equipment

Yale School of Engineering has a similar website. Equipment safety information and machine shop safety rules are listed here.

Occupational Safety & Health (OSHA) has innumerable resources on their website that's worth checking out. Go to their safety and health topics listed in OSHA's eTools, eMatrix, Expert Advisors website.

Use their A-Z index to search for information.

Some areas of interest to check out are:

  • Machine guarding
  • Hand and power tools
  • Lock out of hazardous equipment
  • Electrical safety

OSHA Regulations of particular importance for shop-like environments with powered equipment include:

  • OSHA 1910 Subpart O Machinery and Machine Guarding
  • OSHA 1910.242 Hand and Portable Power Tools
  • OSHA 1910.147 Control of Hazardous Energy
  • OSHA 1910.132 Personal Protective Equipment and Hazard Assessment of Work Environment

Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) assistance

EHS personnel are readily available to assist with exhaust ventilation recommendations, safety equipment, PPE and fire extinguisher training. We can help with the development of safety procedures. Just give us a call we always welcome a day in the shop!

If we have kept your attention so far, then safety in the shop and using powered equipment may be relevant and you have a key role in this area at the University. Please note the following resources that may be helpful.

See the EHS website for a full listing of safety services and polices.

Other Safety Considerations for Shops & Studios

Anti Restarts - Do you need to install an Anti-restart device? - OSHA has adopted the ANSI Safety Code for Wood Working Machinery. The goal of using anti restarts is to prevent accidental startup of machinery in the event of a power failure. When power resumes it can startle an operator or other individual who may be standing, leaning into the equipment or otherwise be immediately injured from the operation of the equipment (i.e. moving blade). It is difficult to advise when equipment manufacturers started to include magnetic anti restarts into their equipment. EHS recommendation is to consider using the SENSING-SAF-START device (shown below) to prevent potential injuries on high RPM equipment capable of creating serious entanglement and cutting injuries (i.e. table saws) if the manufacturer has not included this safety feature into equipment. Grainger is a distributor of SENSING-SAF-START.

This device helps to prevent automatic restart accidents after a power interruption.
This can be easily installed on common shop equipment such as drill presses,
band saws, small milling machines and lathes, table saws, radial saws and scroll saws.


Hydraulic Safety – Canada has an extensive Hydraulic Safety Program. If this topic is of interest please review the host of resources they have on their website.