Stating The Obvious

By Diane Kelly | Jul 15, 2013
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Your employees work with an abundance of hand and power tools. You can help keep them safe by ensuring they are well-versed in common-sense tool safety. Although we all should know the following 10 safety tips, a review never hurts. Then again, maybe someone you know skipped these early lessons and stands a chance of injury by violating them. It happens more often than it should.

1. Focus on the state of the tool

All hand and power tools must be regularly maintained and kept in good condition. Use the right tool for the job each and every time. Inspect tools for damage before use, and remove damaged tools from service. Always follow manufacturers’ instructions when operating tools. Focusing on the tools can go a long way toward reducing tool-related injuries on the job site. These inspection methods are not time-consuming, nor do they cost anything, but they should be at the core of hand and power tool safety.

2. Consider what the tool is made of

If you are working near flammable substances, never use iron and steel hand tools. Use only tools made of nonferrous materials. They are spark-resistant; therefore, they are the safe option when working around highly volatile liquids, flammable gases or any other explosive material. Use safety-rated insulated tools when working around electricity. 

3. Don’t pull on hoses or cords

Pulling the hose or cord from the receptacle to disconnect it is a bad idea. The act can weaken attachment points, compromising the safety of the tool. Always pull hoses and cords near the plug head or receptacle.

4. Never remove safeguards

Even if you are an experienced hand and power tool operator, do not remove safeguards. Safeguards are there to keep you safe; they should never be taken off or altered in any way. Even the most experienced operators can suffer a momentary lapse of concentration, and the guard may keep them from harm.

5. Pull wrenches, don’t push them

When using an adjustable wrench to tighten a nut, it is best to face and pull the sliding jaw of the wrench in your direction whenever a nut or bolt is tightened or loosened. In this position, most of the pressure will be on the fixed jaw, which typically doesn’t slip. Pushing a wrench can cause it to slip, which could result in you losing your balance.

6. Wear protection when 
using pneumatic tools

Wear head, face and the required eye protection when using pneumatic tools, such as drills, hammers and sanders. These tools get their power from compressed air. This pressurized air puts the operator at risk of getting hit by one of the tool’s attachments’ fasteners. The added safety equipment can minimize the risk of injury.

7. Use electric tools only 
in dry locations

Never use electric tools in damp or wet locations, except when approved for that purpose. The result could be shock or electrocution. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employees operating electric tools should be protected by ground-fault circuit interrupters or by an assured equipment grounding conductor program.

8. Secure powder-actuated tools

OSHA requires that a powder-­actuated tool should not function until it is pressed or pushed against the work surface with a minimum force of 5 lbs. (or 2.2 kg) greater than the total weight of the tool. This type of tool is very dangerous if misused. 

9. Disconnect power before 
cutting wire, and use the right tools

Wire-cutting pliers with plastic-covered handles should never be used to cut low-voltage, live electric wire. The plastic handles merely increase comfort while using the tool and provide no electrical insulation. Always disconnect the current before working on any wiring.

10. Avoid impact tools with mushroomed heads

Impact tools, such as wedges, chisels and draft pins, are unsafe if their heads are mushroomed. When mushroomed, the tool head is more likely to shatter into sharp fragments on impact, which is dangerous for anyone in the area.

While none of this information should surprise you, it can never hurt to repeat these basic safe work practices. Very often the simplest safety ideas can save a life or prevent an injury on your job site.

About The Author

Diane Kelly is a safety and health specialist with Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and software for contractors. She can be reached at 800.745.4818 or [email protected].

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