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Mentoring and liability

When I suggested mentoring, I was not really thinking about bringing untrained students into your shop where you would be subject to all of the liability such an arrangement would involve.

At one point, I had thought seriously about setting up a woodworking center where people could come, not only to learn how to make things but actually build their own pieces. I had envisioned a big room full of workstations which would have a bench and assembly table with easy access to things like clamps, glue, fasteners, etc. and lockers where people could leave their stuff. There would be adjoining machine room, a checkout counter for power tools, and a sales counter where people could buy tools and wood. I had spent a lot of time figuring out how to charge for use of the space and ended up with something that looked a lot like the athletic clubs that have popped up on almost every street in America.

Then I ran smack dab into the liability issue. I had been talking to some lawyers about how to write up waivers that would exempt the facility from any responsibility for people injuring themselves. The consensus was that, while it was totally possible to create such a document and get people to sign it, defending against the inevitable lawsuit that you would be slapped with the instant someone got a splinter was another story entirely.

I'm sure all those athletic clubs have a similar liability issue. What if someone falls on their face on the treadmill or drops a 50-lb. barbell on their toe? They have to have some sort of coverage for that. Maybe they just have you sign a waiver and hope for the best. I think I'm going to look into that because I still think this is not a bad idea.


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