Special Topics in Safety Management

Creating Safer Safety Knives

Sponsored by - Slice

Safety knife: the term sounds like an oxymoron. However, there are safety knives available that actually do provide an added level of risk mitigation, beyond traditional industry approaches: they are the safety knife designs created by Slice.

There are two aspects of a knife to address when considering safety: the handle and the blade. Industry-wide, the focus to increase safety has been on redesigning the handle to limit blade exposure. This helps, but it doesn’t get to the crux of the problem: the blade. Because it isn’t the handle that cuts you, it’s the blade.

A True Safety Blade

Slice redesigned the blade. Knives as most of us know them have a metal blade. Metal is a relatively soft material so it dulls quickly. New metal blades are then overly sharp in order to make them last longer. This is when they’re especially dangerous; the other time when blades are particularly dangerous is when they are dull.

For its blades, Slice uses 100 percent zirconium oxide, an advanced ceramic material that is much harder than steel. To this material, Slice applies its patented grind, designed specifically to create a finger-friendly edge.

You didn’t misread that: Slice blades safer to touch than metal blades, greatly reducing the risk of lacerations. Several case studies show that where workers use safety knives regularly, there have been results of zero lacerations after switching to Slice tools.

Because of the hardness of the ceramic, Slice blades also lasts up to 11 times longer than their metal counterparts. Not only is this added value, it means fewer blade changes. Handling a blade is a prime time for possible lacerations. The less often the better.

Added bonuses of the Slice safety blades over metal blades include the following: they’re rust-proof, non-conductive, anti-magnetic, and won’t spark. Because the blades won’t rust, they don’t require the oil coating metal blades do. This makes them appropriate for use in clean rooms and autoclaves.

The Slice lineup of tools features both cutters with traditionally sized blades, as well as innovative micro-blade tools. These mini blades, which are used in the Safety Cutter, Safety Cutter Ring, and Precision Cutter, effectively cut thinner materials such as paper and plastics. The blades are so small, however, they make cutting skin particularly difficult.

A Safer Handle, Too

The goal for Slice since its inception in 2008 has been to come up with the safest cutting tools possible. So great care has also gone into making the handles as safe as possible.

Knives have two types of handles: fixed blade handles, which hold the blade in place and exposed; and retractable blade handles, which allow the blade to be exposed or retracted with the use of a spring-loaded slider. Slice also offers the smart-retraction system, which requires both the slider to be engaged and the pressure of the blade on the material being cut.

Safety knives are of the latter flavor, retractable. The Slice lineup of utility knives features good examples of the variety of shapes and sizes of safety knives available: box cutters, pen cutters, utility knives, and even the Mini Cutter.

Retraction Designs

Slice offers three retraction designs: manual, auto-retractable, and smart-retracting. To use the manual option you activate the slider and the blade locks into an exposed position; Slice tools allow for a variety of blade positions to accommodate the depth of the materials you’re cutting. To retract the blade, you reverse the slider motion.

The auto-retractable design will retract the blade into the handle whenever the user isn’t activating the slider, and the smart-retracting feature, as noted above, will retract the blade when it loses contact with the material being cut, even if the slider is engaged.

The auto- and smart- retracting features add a level of safety because the blade is never exposed if the cutter isn’t in use. The trade-off is that there is extra effort needed to keep the blade exposed. The manual cutter then is a better choice for people who must repeatedly make cuts: engaging the slider causes muscle fatigue if done for long periods of time.

Ergonomic Design and Other Health and Safety Handle Features

An ergonomically designed knife fits well in the hand. It is easy to maneuver and will reduce hand and forearm fatigue. Poorly designed knives can lead to repetitive strain injuries; muscle fatigue can also impair your ability to handle a knife safely.

Slice has developed some innovative designs such as the J-hook design of the box cutters to improve ease of cutting and increase safety. Where it made sense to adopt a more conventional design, like with the pen cutters and utility knives, Slice still ensures that the product is easy to grip and use.

Slice designs also factor in balancing the weight of the tool, which improves ease of use. And many Slice knives are made of a highly durable plastic. They are lighter weight than metal counterparts, which also reduces muscle fatigue.

These efforts at great design have real world results. In 2016, the Slice box cutter and smart-retract utility knife were tested by U.S. Ergonomics. Results show reduced strain on the muscles involved with cutting.

Is Your Safety Knife the Safest Knife?

Knives are inherently dangerous, but some are much more so than others. In your search for a truly safer safety knife, examine the handle design and the blade design. What are the safety features? Is it ergonomic? Is it durable? At issue is your well-being; be sure you work with the safest safety knives.