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Work Shop Wiring

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So you would like to set up a workshop, perhaps in the basement, take over part of the garage, or in an external building from the main home.

Unless you are only using small occasional use tools, you will have to plan carefully what your power requirements are as new circuits to handle the electrical demand for your new workshop will be required. I would recommend consultation and use of a licensed electrician for this, if your jurisdiction allows the homeowner the option of completing the work, you still need need to arrange an inspection that must pass before the new installation is utilized, consulting a head of time will prevent you having to spend more time and money redoing items that did not pass the inspection.

If the workshop is significant in size, for an added measure of safety I would recommend that you consider an electrical sub panel in the workshop area for the circuits used in your workshop, what this allows you to also do is to be able to switch off all circuits within the sub panel and lock it to prevent any untrained unauthorized use of the workshop. Although by most codes the panel must be completely accessible however sub panels may have their own rules, how the inspector interrupts a locked sub panel is something that should be checked on in order to satisfy the requirements in the jurisdiction in which you live but still allow you to be able to lock out all power to the tools in your workshop from unauthorized use.

For any wet areas & flammable areas such as auto repair areas I would highly recommend to use air power tools, there is no danger of shock from the air power tools, as the tool itself is not powered by electricity but by compressed air, and the air compressor which is connected to electricity is located far from the actual tool working location. The air tool is connected to the air compressor by a special rubber hose which is non conductive to electricity.



Make sure your workshop is not cluttered and all tools are stored safely away after use. This will not only make your tools easier to find, it prevents accidents.

Plan the location of your outlets power feeds where fixed powered tools are / will be located such a table saws / band saws, jointer planers and so on; you do not want power cords over the floor that is an accident waiting to happen where someone could trip on it.  Table saws, band saws, jointer planners and so on can draw a lot of current and then there is with all motors a brief power surge at start up, so a few 20 amp dedicated circuits will likely be required. Really heavy duty fixed power items may even require a 220 volt connection.  An power on / off switch must be located at the item itself such as a table saw.

You must also have proper ventilation in your workshop which will prevent or lower the level of sawdust for instance in the air.

Always use insulated shoes / boots including puncture proof shoes / boots. Safety goggles should always be worn when operating power tools, along with protective gloves. In high noise areas noise dampening ear protection is also a must.

Use only power tools that are in absolute perfect condition that has passed a highly recognized consumer protection testing facility. Any damaged tools should be taken out of service and discarded. Power cords should be inspected regularly and any damaged or frayed items promptly repaired or discarded.

Always turn off the breaker to the circuit when doing maintenance on any fixed power item, even if the switch at the item itself is off.

Double / all insulated are the only tools that are allowed to be used without the added protection of a earth ground connector as part of the power cord.

For portable power tools such as a circular saw or drill, I would strongly recommend NOT using any option that allows the tool to stay on when the trigger switch is released, if it slips out of your hands you want it to shut down immediately. Never use an tool that has the blade guard damaged.

This is one thing I learned the hard way, always keep your hand and fingers at a same distance from any cutting blade; way way back in high school in grade 8, in shop I used to on a jointer planner allow my finger on a push guide to go over the cutting blade with the wood under it, that was until one day when I got a little too close and the rotating blade hit a knot in the wood and kicked back a bit leaving my middle finger of my left hand hitting the blade, well I lost the first joint of that finger, it all happened so fast there was absolutely no pain, the school took me immediately to a local doctor then onward to the hospital where they operated on it.

When working with power tools, remove all jewellery, anything hanging around the neck, rings anything that could possibly get caught in a power tool, anyone with long hair tie it securely into a ball or other method so it can never fall in the path of a power tool;  jackets / long sleeve shirts are a danger is ever caught in a power tools such as blades. Keep all loose clothing on the arms away from power tools, work gloves that both go over the hands and up over the bottom of long sleeve shirts will give some protection. Long hair is left hanging could get caught in a power tool / blade and violently forced with head / face into a high speed rotating blade and such an event would likely be fatal, even if you survive you will never be the same.

Although few people actually do, and of course some of it is legal readings to cover the manufactures butt from being sued in the event of an accident but still read all instructions in the information provided when buying a new power tool, it will explain cautions / safety procedures in the use of that power tool.

Now this is really where you have to check out the local electrical codes, GFCI in a lot of jurisdictions are required in unfinished basements, unfinished depends on the floor surface, finished walls with a concrete floor is in regards to electrical codes is unfinished. A finished basement without a finished floor is not finished according to code provisions,.  Outside accessory buildings, garages also require GFI protected outlets.  There are exceptions to this for single outlet dedicated circuits to a corded appliance such as a refrigerator, sump pump, washing machine.

The NEC (United States) and CEC (Canada) although I know in Canada, Some provinces such as Ontario has additional electrical codes - Electrical codes in it's legal written form can be complex in nature with exceptions to certain rules, so for an elaborate workshop I would advise to at least consult with a professional.  Electrical codes are also amended from time to time, and new versions of the electrical codes are released, sometimes as a result of tragedies and then experts in the field try to figure out how to prevent the same incident in the future.

Do not allow young children into the workshop particularly when the circuit power is on the tools themselves even if the power tools are off at the power tool location. In addition to that the noise / dust and debris that may be in there is not a safe environment for children.

Written: Jan. 1, 2012
Proof Read / Released: May 7, 2012
By: Donald Kerr

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