Column Personnel Safety Training

Don’t Ignore Hand Tool Safety

EP Editorial Staff | May 1, 2022

Hand and power tools are so commonplace in maintenance that safety when using them is often overlooked. Follow best practices and OSHA guidelines.

Hand and power tools are used so frequently in facilities by employees and contractors that many users often don’t realize the hazards each tool represents.

Hand tools are those that require manual use, such as hammers and wrenches, whereas power tools are typically classified by their power source. 

OSHA provides five basic safety rules to assist in the prevention of workplace injuries and illnesses.

1. Use the right tool for the job.

2. Keep tools in good condition with routine maintenance.

3. Inspect or examine tools before use and do not use damaged tools.

4. Operate tools by following the manufacturer’s instructions.

5. Select and use the proper personal protective equipment (PPE).

Tool manufacturers provide operator or user manuals. Hard copies are generally provided with the tool purchase and, these days, are usually available electronically online. Manuals provide guidance for handling and operating tools as intended. Employees must be trained on tool use, inspections, maintenance, hazards, and the required PPE. Employers are prohibited from allowing the use of unsafe tools, including tools that employees bring from home. It’s also a best practice to provide company-approved tools and prohibit the use of employee-owned tools. When employees are empowered to decline the use of unsafe power tools, they are more likely to inspect and properly maintain their tools. 

The inspection process for a tool depends on the power source and complexity of the tool. For example, most power tools are equipped with a type of safeguard and a safety switch. The type of safeguard, e.g., fixed, self-closing, or interlocked, and safety switch are typically based upon the hazard created by the tool. Throughout my years as a safety professional, the most common issues found with power tools are missing or damaged guards and missing auxiliary handles.

Management should encourage employees to use the correct tool for the job every time. Many times employees performing service or maintenance activities may not have the proper tool with them and are prone to use a nearby tool. Supervisors must urge employees to take the time necessary to locate the correct tool for the job.

Once the proper tool has been selected and inspected, the appropriate PPE should be provided and worn consistently while using the tool. The PPE selection must be based upon the hazard(s) created by the tool.  The two most common pre-planning aids used to determine proper PPE are a job hazard analysis (JHA) or the PPE hazard assessment certification, which is required for employers who require PPE. EP

For more information, reference Hand and Power Tool Safety at osha.gov. 

Vince Plank is a Safety Advisor at Safety Management Group, Indianapolis, IN, (safetymanagementgroup.com). He is a Certified Safety Professional with almost 20 years of occupational safety and health experience in general industry and construction. Contact him at VincePlank@safetymanagementgroup.com.

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