A Comprehensive Guide to Hand and Power Tool Safety

man wearing power tool safety mro

Don’t risk the safety of your teams – and your compliance with OSHA – when using hand and power tools on the job site. Here’s what to know to stay safe.

Hand and power tools are the bread and butter of many trades. Those on job sites use them for various projects – and even those in shipping and logistics may find themselves using these tools to keep things moving smoothly.

Yet despite their ubiquity, hand and power tools pose significant risks when not used properly. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020 alone, there were approximately 103,700 nonfatal occupational injuries involving hand tools and 65,900 involving powered hand tools that resulted in days away from work. And when employees aren’t properly trained on how to use these tools safely, the risk increases even more.

That’s why both employers and employees must be well-informed about hand and power tool safety. Let’s break down some of the key safety practices to keep in mind when using these tools.

Identifying Hazards: The First Step to Safety

Before implementing new safety protocols, it’s vital to point out any potential issues your teams may face. Each type of tool presents unique hazards that must be identified and addressed.

Hand Tools

Hand tools include any tools that are powered manually, such as hammers, screwdrivers, and wrenches. While these may seem like simple and safe tools to use, they can cause serious injuries if not used properly.

  • Misuse: Using a tool for a purpose it wasn't designed for (e.g., using a screwdriver as a chisel) can lead to tool breakage and injury.
  • Poor maintenance: Tools with loose, splintered, or cracked handles can break during use, potentially causing injuries.
  • Improper storage: Leaving sharp tools in walkways or storing them haphazardly can lead to cuts or punctures.
  • Ergonomic issues: Prolonged use of hand tools without proper technique can cause repetitive strain injuries.

Power Tools

Compared to hand tools, power tools are more efficient and faster to use, but they also pose a higher risk for injuries. These tools use electricity, compressed air, or fuel to operate and can cause serious harm if not used correctly.

  • Electrical hazards: Faulty wiring, damaged cords, or improper grounding can lead to electric shocks or burns.
  • Moving parts: Exposed blades, bits, or gears can cause severe lacerations or amputations if not properly guarded.
  • Projectiles: Power tools can propel fragments, sparks, or debris, potentially causing eye injuries or cuts.
  • Noise: Many power tools generate high noise levels that can lead to hearing loss over time.
  • Vibration: Prolonged exposure to vibrating tools can cause hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).
  • Burns: Some power tools generate significant heat during operation, risking burns to the operator.

How Do You Identify Potential Hazards?

It can be tough to know exactly who is at risk for injury in the workplace, but some common signs can help you identify potential hazards.

These include faulty wiring or damaged cords on electrical equipment, exposed moving parts on power tools, and high noise levels or vibrations from machinery. Regularly inspect all equipment and tools for any wear and tear that could pose a risk to workers.

Make sure to pay attention to warning labels and safety instructions provided by manufacturers. These often outline specific risks associated with certain equipment or provide guidance on how to operate it safely.

Selecting the Right Tools

Choosing the appropriate tool for each task is fundamental to workplace safety. Using the wrong tool reduces efficiency and significantly increases the risk of accidents and injuries.

1. Match The Tool To The Task

To ensure you're selecting the right tools for your job, start by matching the tool to the task. Consider the material you're working with, whether it's wood, metal, or plastic, and evaluate the size and scope of the job. Consider the work environment, such as confined spaces or outdoor settings, which may influence your tool choice.

2. Note User Training & Capability

Next, assess user capability. Consider the operator's skill level and physical capabilities, including strength and dexterity.

If necessary, ensure the tool is comfortable for prolonged use. It's also crucial to check for proper safety features. Ensure guards are in place and functioning correctly, verify that power tools have appropriate switches like dead man's switches, and look for insulation on electrical tools.

3. Keep An Ongoing Tool Condition Database

Always verify the tool's condition before use. Inspect tools for signs of wear or damage, check that moving parts are properly aligned, and ensure cutting tools are sharp, as dull tools can be more dangerous.

Implementing a tool inventory system can greatly aid in proper tool selection. Maintain a catalog of available tools and their appropriate uses, and regularly update the inventory to ensure outdated or damaged tools are replaced.

4. Consider Compliance

Compliance with standards and regulations is non-negotiable. Ensure all tools meet OSHA requirements and are approved by recognized testing laboratories such as UL or CSA.

Additionally, it's important to regularly train employees on safety procedures and proper tool usage. Encourage reporting of any potential hazards or accidents to prevent future incidents.

5. Keep Training At The Forefront

Continuous training is key in keeping everyone safe on site. Provide ongoing education on proper tool usage, maintenance, and safety precautions.

This includes not only initial training for new employees but also regular refresher courses for current employees. Stay up to date with any changes or updates in technology or regulations that may affect tool safety.

Create A Culture of Safety

One of the best ways you can keep everyone safe on site is by fostering a culture of safety. This requires everyone, from management to employees, to prioritize safety and make it a part of everyday work habits.

Here are a few quick tips for building a culture of safety:

  • Lead by example: Make sure management is following all safety protocols and procedures, including wearing appropriate protective gear and using tools correctly.
  • Encourage open communication: Employees should feel comfortable reporting any safety concerns or incidents without fear of repercussions. Regular safety meetings can also provide a forum for discussing potential hazards and solutions.
  • Provide resources: Make sure employees have access to proper safety equipment, such as hard hats, gloves, and goggles. Also, a first aid kit should be kept readily available in case of emergencies.

Remember, creating a culture of safety takes time and effort. But by engaging everyone in the process and making it a priority, you can ensure that your workplace remains safe for all.

Take the time to prioritize safety in your workplace. Together, we can make a difference and prevent accidents from happening.

At Alta Max, we’re serious about helping our clients and customers stay compliant and safe. To learn more tips about how to keep your workplace safe, check out our blogs – and please contact us as you have needed MRO products.

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