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Safety Blog

Hand and Power Tool Safety

By Kenneth Roy

Posted on 2018-12-21

There are many safety hazards associated with the use of hand and power tools, and teachers and students should be trained to recognize them and understand what safety precautions should be taken to avoid them.

Safety Precautions

For hand tool use, follow these general precautions published by the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology:

Hand tools shall only be used for their intended purpose.
• Inspect tools for damage prior to use.
• Hand tools shall be maintained in good condition free of damage. For example, wooden handles on tools, such as a hammer or an axe, shall be tight and free from splinters or cracks.
• Bent screwdrivers or screwdrivers with chipped edges shall be replaced.
• Always direct tools such as knives, saw blades, etc. away from aisle areas and away from other employees working in close proximity.
• Knives and scissors must be sharp; dull tools can cause more hazards than sharp ones.
• Cracked saw blades must be removed from service.
• Wrenches must not be used when jaws are sprung to the point that slippage occurs.
• Impact tools such as drift pins, wedges, and chisels must be kept free of mushroomed heads.
• Iron or steel hand tools may produce sparks that can be an ignition source around flammable substances. Spark-resistant tools made of non-ferrous materials should be
used where flammable gases, highly volatile liquids, and other explosive substances are stored or used.
• Keep the work area and tools clean. Dirty, greasy tools and floor may cause accidents.
• Tools shall be stored in a dry secure location.
• Carry and store tools properly. All sharp tools shall be carried and stored with the sharp edge down. Do not carry sharp tools in a pocket.
• Wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE).

OSHA provides the following general precautions for power tools use:

Never carry a tool by the cord or hose.
• Never yank the cord or the hose to disconnect it from the receptacle.
• Keep cords and hoses away from heat, oil, and sharp edges.
• Disconnect tools when not using them, before servicing and cleaning them, and when changing accessories such as blades, bits, and cutters.
• Keep all people not involved with the work at a safe distance from the work area.
• Secure objects with clamps or a vise, freeing both hands to operate the tool.
• Avoid accidental starting. Do not hold fingers on the switch button while carrying a plugged-in tool.
• Maintain tools with care; keep them sharp and clean for best performance.
• Follow instructions in the user’s manual for lubricating and changing accessories.
• Be sure to keep good footing and maintain good balance when operating power tools.
• Wear proper apparel for the task. Loose clothing, ties, or jewelry can become caught in moving parts.
• Remove all damaged portable electric tools from use and tag them: “Do Not Use.”

Whether using hand or power tools, follow these five basic safety protocols to prevent accidents:

• Have regularly scheduled maintenance to keep tools in good operating condition.
• Use the correct tool for the job.
• Inspect all tools for damage prior to use. Never use a damaged tool!
• Read the manufacturers’ instructions before using any tool.
• By way of safety training, learn how to assess and use the appropriate engineering controls, operating procedures, and personal protective equipment.

Hand and Power Tool School Safety Programs

School administrations must develop a tool safety program that includes student and teacher safety procedures and employer and employee responsibilities for hand and power tools.

Suggested Employer (administrators and supervisors) Responsibilities

• Develop a hand and power tool safety program (including periodic evaluations and updates) based on OSHA and other regulatory agency standards.
• Provide oversight to make sure tools are free of defects and properly maintained.
• All tools must be operated according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
• Provide appropriate safety training and record keeping for employees using tools before working with them.
• Provide appropriate supervision to ensure employees and students are complying with the safety program.
• Make sure defective tools are taken out of service immediately.
• Conduct periodic inspections of instructional site using hand and power tools.

Suggested Employee (teachers and paraprofessionals) Responsibilities

• Attend safety training programs before using tools;
• Visual inspection for tool defects or hazards prior to use.
• Immediately tag defective tools as out of service.
• Report defects to supervisor.

For an example of a hand and power tool safety program check out the safety program developed by Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Also, check out this PowerPoint employee/student training program titled Power Tool Safety.

Submit questions regarding safety to Ken Roy at or leave him a comment below. Follow Ken Roy on Twitter: @drroysafersci.

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