Right Tool for the Job
Tools are a necessary requirement on most job sites, indoors and outdoors. However, hand tools, when used improperly or not kept in good condition, can also result in very serious injuries.
Hand tool safety and awareness is a great toolbox talk or safety meeting topic. Reminders, like those found in this article, should be provided to employees who use hand tools during a safety meeting, annual safety training, or a safety huddle at the job site.
Workers should be sure that they take good care of their hand tools to avoid common injuries such as:
- Severe cuts or punctures that require stitches
- Scrapes and abrasions that can end up with skin infections
- Eye injuries or blindness from chipping or chiseling
- Electrical shocks from using improperly insulated tools for electrical work
- Carpal tunnel syndrome if the wrong tool is used repeatedly or the right tool is used incorrectly
- Bruises or broken bones when tools slip, fall or are carelessly thrown
Injuries with tools often take place when workers fail to use them as intended or forget to inspect them before using. Workers should be trained and reminded to follow safe work practices every time they use their tools.
Hand tools should always be inspected before use. Never use hand tools that are rusted, cracked, warped, splintered, loose, damaged or broken!
- Look for any damage such cracks in handles, sharp edges, or splintering. If a wooden handle on a tool, such as a hammer or an ax, is loose, splintered, or cracked, the head has the potential to fly off causing injuries.
- Make sure that tools are not covered in paint, grease, or dirt that can create a hazard or hide a serious defect.
- Wrenches that are warped, rusted, or sprung can result in breaking or slippage that can lead to serious hand injuries.
- Saws, knives, scissors, or other similar hand tools should be sharp. Dull tools can actually be more hazardous than sharp tools.
- Spades, shovels, and other long handled tools should not be used unless they are in good working condition.
- If performing work around flammable gases, volatile liquids or other explosive materials use a hand tool made of non ferrous material. Iron or steel hand tools may produce sparks that can be an ignition source around flammable substances.
- Ensure jacks are placed on a firm foundation. If a firm foundation is absent, the base should be blocked to prevent slippage.
- Ensure hand tools are insulated if working near energized electrical parts.
- Remember to use the right personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, safety glasses, goggles, or face-shields.
- Always use the proper attachments, handles, and grips provided by the manufacturer!
- Never use impact tools that have mushroomed heads. They can chip and send pieces flying off as projectiles.
Hand tools can also pose a risk even when they are not in use if they are not carried, stored, or handled properly.
- Never carry sharp tools like screwdrivers or chisels in your pocket! Only carry them with the point side down in a tool belt or in a tool box.
- Instead of carrying tools up and down a ladder by hand, consider using a bucket or a strong bag.
- Never toss or throw any hand tool to a co-worker.
- When carrying larger tools pay attention to corners and doorways. Ensure the work site has clear walkways and maintain good housekeeping to prevent slips, trips and falls while carrying tools.
- Always put tools away when not in use. Don’t leave any tools lying on any elevation, like scaffolding, where there is a risk to people or property below.
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