I'm mostly a one man shop wanting to hire an entry level trainee so I'm not requiring much experience, however I do want someone athletic, physically fit, and strong enough to lift a full 4x8 sheet of 3/4" mdf, tip it onto, and run it through a table saw.
I was considering having applicants who come in for interviews come back to the shop and observe me do this and ask them to prove that they're strong enough to do it by just pushing the sheet across the saw and out feed table with the blade lowered and saw not running.
I would have worker's comp for my employee, but this would be during screening. I'm worried about liability especially if it were a woman or small man claiming on their application that they can lift 125 lbs. Would having them sign a waiver protect me should they hurt themselves performing this test? Alternatives?
Just my $0.02 but in don't think any waiver is going to save you anything and if your looking for an inexperienced individual to feed full sheets through the saw your not asking for an inexperienced laborer. That process is riddled with danger and would require quite a bit of time in training to feel comfortable with issues like kickback and quality of cut. We have a guy that's been on a year and I am still not comfortable with him even on the slider because I can clearly see in his actions that he is yet to have a full, comfortable, confident, grasp of a saw.
I would either leave them to true labor, sweeping, handling materials, laying sheets on a cart for you to feed and off bearing on the back side, or something like that.
They wouldn't be cutting anything on a table saw for a long time. I need someone capable of doing that when I feel they are ready. Immediately, I will need them to move full sheets around the shop.
Working with saw blades and cutters rotating at high speed is inherently dangerous to the inexperienced. ripping a full sheet of plywood has always seemed like a fairly safe woodworking operation, relatively speaking.
I've never thought of it as "riddled with danger." but even carrying sheets around the shop could be dangerous to someone not quite physically capable of it and I'm wanting to ensure that they are.
Perhaps a bad assumption on my part but I simply assumed that anyone who would be feeding sheets across a saw would be breaking down a multitude of work but perhaps your work consists mainly of ripping full sheets on their length and thats it. Maybe you have an underpowered saw in your shop. Maybe the sheets are not further broken down into smaller parts.
In our shop sheets are broken down into a multitude of parts on a pretty decently powered saw. It wouldnt be out of the realm of possibility to have an individual feeding an 8' or 10' sheet into the saw (maybe even a 5x10) and they get it askew on its long leg or they are not very skillful at paying attention the the blade and the fence simultaneously and they wind up in a bind. Our saw is capable of launching the sheet and the operator back a bit before the blade will be out of play. With a good employee that would be a lesson well learned and a scrape or a sore back after landing on the floor. A "not so good" employee, what we are dealing with now on a daily basis, that would be a situation where I will be losing sleep over a back injury or a strained index finger muscle resulting in months of therapy to achieve possible recovery and return to work.
In our shop we break down parts of all shapes. I am never honestly confident that someone will remember not to break down a piece that is wider than it is long (the first rule of a TS) so we tend to break down everything possible on the CNC because I have simply never gotten to a point where I am comfortable enough to even have it done on the slider by someone else unless I completely remove the rip fence (which I do).
The point of my response is that no waiver in any way shape or form is going to protect you from a lawyer. Its not going to protect you from a lifting strain. From a trip and fall while carrying a full sheet across your shop, it wont protect you from a sliver that gets infected. And it surely isnt going to protect you from a kickback even if it was due to poor practice on the employees part.
So rule that one out, and you'r left with hiring a hunky of a laborer. It could be a woman, Other than 5x10 melamine or 1 1/8" 5x10 MDF, I can handle most anything at 50 years old with a smart approach to the sheet. Ive yet to get someone in the shop that approaches a heavy sheet in a smart manner. That said, if I could find a brute who could just man handle it Id be fine with that. He'd probably be to prideful to ever go to the doctor anyway.
I think it all boils down to your read when you get them face to face or in the shop. Maybe you implement a 90 day trial period. If you, or they, dont feel the fit after one, or ninety, days, you opt out.
You might take a hint from your local fire department. Any recruit must perform a series of strength tests before they can be hired. You might do them and yourself a favor and get a tilting panel handler. Money that reduces the chance for back strain is money very spent!
Mark, thanks for taking the time to share your experiences; I get exactly what you are saying.
Thanks Rich C. That looks like a nice luxury for sometime down the road. Right now though, with all the tooling and equipment upgrades I feel like could make my shop more productive, a panel handler would be low on my priority list.
I just wanted to know if any employers on here have job applicants perform some sort of strength test pre hire, like what I was thinking of doing, to make sure they meet the physical requirements for the position so we're not wasting each other's time. Or, just out of curiosity, have you ever had to let someone go because they just couldn't handle the physical requirements of the position. Thanks.
You might take a hint from your local fire department. Any recruit must perform a series of strength tests before they can be hired. You might do them and yourself a favor and get a tilting panel handler. Money that reduces the chance for back strain is money very spent!
Technically, Larry is right. A stock table saw can't cut a base cabinet end panel square unless the panel is already square cut from the sheet goods factory. The stock miter gage will not reach far enough to true the factory edge. You have to make a sled or add an accessory.
Tell your potential employee that the interview is not complete until the "Feats of "Strength", and that, in fact, the "Feats of Strength" are the final tradition on Festivus, err, the interview.
On a more serious note, try to hire a guy that has table saw experience if that's what you want him to do. I have tried many guys on the saw and I was always much more comfortable with the ones that had prior experience. The physical strength required is only one part of the problem.
To each their own. Your panel handler looks like not only more work but more risk to me. I would not have one in my shop. rotatating/twisting the panels onto it is far more dangerous on a back than just standing up a sheet and grabbing it. If you can't easily move 4x8 sheets then it shouldn't be your job to use the tablesaw. Only exception would be an owner that doesn't have another option but you need to find another option if you can't either A) drive the forklift right to the saw and feed off the top or B) lift that sheet and go
Lifting and twisting awkward loads is the number one cause of back injuries in the shop. Getting sheets of MDF to a ripsaw is a textbook example of how to cause back injuries. I did mine 30 yrs ago and still regret it. These injuries do not go away, and your WC insurance will go thru the roof, forever.
As a result, we have always had a shop rule that two people handle full sheets at the saw, never one. We don't handle a lot of ply, but do make large and heavy assemblies. We just are very careful. All machines, benches, moveable stands and horses are exactly the same height. One small tool cart is taller - from before I knew better.
O P. Never had any strength tests. If a new hire could not keep up, we would gladly give them a positive referral and help them out the door.
I know for me personally as I get older (50 last year) anything other than a sheet of 1/2" pre-fin ply feels like a lead boat anchor to me. When we run melamine jobs I find myself dreaming of a vacuum lift on a gantry with a load balancer. If I were alone in the shop that would be the one thing I would buy straight away. We recently did a 5x10 melamine job and it was miserable with two guys. Before that was a job with 1 1/8 MDF. It was a money maker but two struggled with those beasts.
I always remember stories from older mentors when I was younger. One guy threw his back out and wound up in the hospital for a few days in traction. It happened one morning when he was getting ready for work and he sat down on the edge of the bed and leaned over to pull his underwear on, and POW. Down for the count.
Another was working in a cab shop and reached over a stack of cabs to grab a tiny little lightweight W1530 in the stack behind to scoot it closer to lift it and blew a disk.
For me it can happen when Im carrying pencil and paper and twisting just right gives you the warning.
For those reasons Im in the David camp. I dont care if your a power lifter in your private life. My comp rates are whats in jeopardy. No macho man randy savage action. Work smarter not harder.
Being 6'2" 280 and resembling an offensive lineman may be skewing my perspective a little. But my thought has always been if you train your muscles to do what needs to be done and you do it literally hundreds of times a week you are in a better position than most. You guys seem to look at it like a liability. I look at it as I get to skip the gym and the gym payment and get to pocket the difference of 2 men vs 1 and the machinery to get there. On a level floor, not a delivery with stairs and obstacles, I've always counted the lifting as a gain in both efficiency, longevity and health while exploiting a lower cost to do the same work versus my competitors.
Well, since this thread has gone off on a tangent, I'll put my .02 cents in as well.
I never knew one guy lifting sheets of plywood and turning them onto the table saw was so controversial! Iíve never done it any other way unless I had to help someone else who didnít have the strength. It doesn't have to be awkward or unsafe either. Iíve always thought it was a pretty easy maneuver, done properly and by someone with enough strength to handle (not wrestle with) the sheet. I would even argue, from my experience, that it's safer than two people; especially knowing that one guy can't always anticipate what the other is going to do or how they'll react if there is a problem.
And I would also point out that if you or your employees are going to be lifting heavy loads, installing cabinets, working with sheet goods, etc. then you should have them observe safety rules and procedures just like they would doing anything else in the shop. Specifically, taking 15-20 minutes before a shift to warm up and do some stretching to limber up the entire body, train them how to lift properly (many bodybuilders do this into their 50's and 60's with a lot more weight than a sheet of plywood), and have them wear a lifting belt if you really need some extra insurance.
Iím probably biased too though since I was an athlete when I was younger and learned how to stretch, warm up, and lift properly
We invested in lift tables, money well spent. Before that we did it like Family man does, Forklift next to the saw.
I get what your saying about physically being able to do it but there is easier ways.. We have a rolling lift table that holds 1100 lbs, can move 10 sheets around shop and up the saw or CNC height with minimal effort.
In lean manufacturing every activity is considered to either add value or add waste. It can only be one or the other.
Waste is further divided into necessary waste and un-necessary waste. Waste is generally considered to be divided into 7 categories, one of which is called "excessive motion". To this I would add an 8th category of waste called : "excessive E-motion"
There is a lot of E-motion in this industry. Some of it is testosterone based and some of it just pride. This particular E-motion is the kind that sneak up on you when you thought you were bulletproof.
I had a shop for many years that simply did not have capacity for a forklift. Everything was a hand off-load. When the truck came to the shop everybody would turn out and carry the sheet goods into the shop. We had special racks designed to collect the material but it was still a hand off-load.
The truck driver for the lumber company was a real manly guy. A natural athlete. Built like an Adonis. I insisted that every sheet be pulled off the truck with two men. I did not matter to me whether it was 1 inch MDF or 1/4 inch plywood. One sheet: Two men.
Mr. Testosterone didn't need no stinkin help. He carried his sheets all by himself.
About five years into his career he was on another stop. He lifted a piece of 1/2 inch plywood off the truck right when a gust of wind came through. The wind caught his plywood like a parasail and twisted his athletic back. He was off work on medical leave for 8 months until he finally just retired.
Here was a guy who was basically trained to drive a truck and unload plywood and now he can't unload plywood and sitting for long periods of time hurts too much.
A lot of success is mental but sometimes mental is really just mind-forged manacles.
Loved the anecdote with the not so lightly veiled contempt for the "bullet proof" "Adonis" "need no stinkin' help" "Mr. Testosterone" who happened to have a freak accident. "Didn't do things my way so it serves him right! but gave me a great anecdote to support my position." And the lean manufacturing info. just gave it that much more cred., lol.
If two men were carrying a sheet a strong gust of wind could just as easily knock them off balance and they fall and crack their head open. Moral of the story: don't carry sheet goods outside during a hurricane or tornado.
The hydraulic work benches are a plus. We have three though I think we would actually be more efficient with just one.
Two of these benches have two identical drawers on each side. Screws on the left - hand tools on the right. No matter which side of the bench you approach your hand tools and screws will always be in the same location.
The tool drawers have colored faces and the hand tools are color coded per drawer. Red hammers go in red drawer box etc.
I've used one of those panel carts for years and would not handle sheets by hand without one if I could help it. We mostly use it for scraps now that we are in a shop with a forklift and a vacuum lift but in our previous space it was a huge back and labor saver. I would much prefer to roll 10 sheets of melamine across the shop than carry them one at a time. Use it properly and it eliminates most lifting and twisting.
I've been following here with some interest; 63 and not retiring anytime soon, the issue of an employee being physically able- or more importantly, willing- to lift a certain amount of weight is a subject that can stymie any hiring.
As said, there is nothing that will protect you from the liability of injury and you have to be very careful to watch out for compensation experts. I've had a couple come through over the years and they were walking lawsuits waiting to happen. And getting rid of them was tough too- they know the system.......
Best bet is to be set up to a point of never having to lift full sheets alone through a series of carts, horses, deadmen etc.. Make sure that perspectives understand the materials and and the weights you expect them to work with and have them sign a statement saying they understand. This alone may weed out a few. And then there's handling 8/4 oak, sapele, maple... Sigh- used to be if someone balked at lifting what was being worked with, without a valid physical reason, they were gone, find someone new.
I'm surprised that no one has mentioned vertical panel saws- they are a real back and space saver and very safe for a newbie or regular laborer. Holzher, Safety Speedcut, Striebig are a few that I'd look into (not the skillsaw on rails models) if I were doing any amount of sheet goods processing. While it takes a little logistical planning,once setup the full sheets take little lifting .
We had a custom shop in our town in the 1990's that was positioned to be the big dog. They had a ton of equipment and 80 guys. They primarily handled a lot of high rise build outs but also had a division that sold and fabricated high end kitchens.
It was pure chaos over there. Eventually they crashed. I ended up hiring two of their last ten guys. One came from the office and one from the shop. My reasoning was that if they were last man standing they must be smart. I should have instead realized they were amongst the group that wasn't ambitious enough or smart enough to jump ship while there were still jobs to be had elsewhere. But that is a different story.
What I found most unusual (and have had this happen more than once) was that they did not know what a "butt" rest was for a sliding table saw. This is the little appendage that slides up and down the beam to give you a brake when pushing wood through the blade. You push with your arms and check with your hip.
The butt rest gives you a tool to walk the beam backwards while you are managing stock. It also provides a method for loading sheetgoods onto the slider.
I bring this up because of all the time I have had "experienced" craftsmen give me a look like a deer staring into headlites when I ask them why they aren't using it.
An 80 man shop somehow never got this tool into the shop lexicon.
I even once had a man tell me why it wasn't necessary. I told him that thepeople who designed Altendorf table sliding table saws were the same people that designed German U-boats. Was a safe bet to believe that if they included it there was a reason.
There is a lot of dumbass in this industry. A lot of very hard headed people.
A good rule of thumb for loading sheetgoods onto a sliding table saw is that if you ever have to lift the entire weight of any sheet you are doing it wrong. There is a proper way to roll sheetgoods onto a sliding table saw. The operative word is "roll" not "lift".
The attached video shows the proper way to flip a sheetgood on a Streibig panel. I shudder to think how many million man hours have been (and are still being) invested in flipping panels on a Streibig.
Getting back to the question at hand....I'm not sure how effective a strength test could really be? I've always hired them on with the clear understanding that the first two weeks were a trial period. If they could do what they claimed they had the job, if not bye bye. Of course you can always cut someone loose at anytime, but having that understanding clearly stated up front makes for an easier time of it as it's usually clear to both parties if they're not able to perform as advertised.
FWIW I'm also a one man shop as I haven't hired anyone in several years. I keep thinking about it, but seems to be as much hassle as help most of the time. I also hump everything up onto a table saw. Most sheet goods aren't a problem. The ones that are, like the 1-1/2" thick ply I was using recently, I break down with a track saw first, then onto the table saw. Worst material for me was using 1-1/4" thick mdf for a project. My shoulders still ache when I think back on that unfortunate decision!
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