Electronics Safety Lesson: Use and Store Tools Properly
Electric shock isn't the only danger you'll encounter when you work with electronics. You also run the risk of burns and cuts, chemical exposure, and little hands getting into things they shouldn’t. Does this mean that working with electronic circuits is too dangerous to do as a hobby? Not at all, as long as you heed the precautions you should take to minimize those risks:
Soldering poses an obvious fire hazard. If your soldering iron is hot enough to melt solder, it's also hot enough to ignite combustible materials such as paper, wire insulation, and so on. Therefore:
Always be aware of when your soldering iron is on. Don't plug it in until you need it, and unplug it when you're finished soldering.
Never set a hot soldering iron down directly on your workbench. Instead, get a soldering iron holder to safely hold the soldering iron while it's hot. A stand keeps the business end of the soldering iron safely elevated away from the work surface.
Give your soldered joints a few minutes to cool down before you handle them.
Watch out for the soldering iron's electrical cord. Obviously, you want to avoid burning the cord with the soldering iron. Make sure the soldering iron's power cord is placed safely away from your stuff so that you won't bump it as you work, knocking it out of its stand and perhaps causing a burn.
Be sure to wear eye protection when you solder. As solder melts, it occasionally boils and splatters little globules of hot solder through the air. You really don't want molten metal anywhere near your eyes.
Electronics — and especially soldering — can also create a chemical hazard. When you solder, small amounts of lead are released into the air. Therefore:
Always work in a well-ventilated place.
Wash your hands after you work with solder or any other electronic components before you touch your face, mouth, nose, or eyes. Small amounts of lead and potentially other toxic substances are bound to get on your hands. It's best to wash them frequently to keep whatever gunk they pick up from getting into your body.
Keep your soldering tools away from children. Young children and pets love to stick things in their mouths. If you leave solder or electronic parts sitting loose on your workbench, your kids or pets may decide to make a meal of them, so keep such things safely stored away. If possible, keep your entire work area behind closed doors.
Don't get into the habit of sticking parts into your mouth to hold them while you're working.
Working with sharp tools such as knives, wire cutters, and power drills creates a risk of cutting injury. Therefore:
Think before you cut. Make sure you know exactly where you want to make the cut, and make sure you know exactly where all of your fingers are before you start the cut.
Let the tool do the work. Don't apply excessive force to coerce a tool into making a bigger, deeper, or wider cut than it's designed to do.
Keep your tools sharp. Working with dull tools causes you to use extra force, which often results in the tool slipping and finding itself lodged in your finger.
Remove jewelry such as rings, wristwatches, and long dangling necklaces before you start – especially if you're working with power tools.
Wear safety goggles whenever you're cutting, sawing, or drilling. Little pieces of the work or blade can easily break off and hit you in the face.