Safety Culture and Behavioral Safety

Cut the Power on Portable Power Tool Accidents

Portable power tools have revolutionized work, but also added new safety concerns. This Friday, our Safety Training Tips editor explains how to reap the benefits of these tools while minimizing the hazards. Here’s what he says you should do…

Make sure workers recognize the risks. Power tools can be hazardous in various ways. For example:
•     Contact with points of operation, such as blades, can cause serious cuts or amputations.
•     Electrical malfunctions can cause shocks, fires, or electrocution.
•     Flying chips, dust, or shavings can cause eye injuries.
•     Noise can cause hearing damage.
•     A heavy power tool dropped on a hand or foot can cause bruises or broken bones.
•     Straining too hard when lifting a heavy power tool can cause a back injury.
•     Remaining in awkward positions for long periods when using power tools can, over time, lead to musculoskeletal disorders.

Explain why most accidents happen. According to the Power Tool Institute, there are three main reasons for most power tool injuries:

•     Loss of concentration. Operators often stop paying attention to their work if they repeat the same actions with a power tool over and over again.
•     Unexpected events. A kickback or other sudden problem with a fast-moving power tool can be very dangerous, especially if the operator doesn’t have the training and experience to expect the unexpected—and doesn’t know how to react safely.
•     Inexperience and overconfidence form a hazardous combination if the operator doesn’t appreciate the dangers and doesn’t understand the importance of being careful at all times when using a power tool.

Train employees to work safely. To prevent accidents and injuries, OSHA says that employees working with power tools should observe five basic safety rules:

•     Keep all tools in good condition with regular maintenance.
•     Use the right tool for the job.
•     Examine tools for damage before use and do not use damaged tools.
•     Operate tools according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
•     Use the right personal protective equipment (which always means safety goggles and might also include a dust mask, a face shield, hearing protection, and safety shoes).

Remind your workers to take these precautions when they use power tools:

•  Don’t turn on a power tool until guards are in place.
•  Never remove or bypass a tool guard.
•  Don’t use a malfunctioning power tool—turn it in for repair and get a replacement.
•  Don’t handle electrical power tools with wet or sweaty hands—dry them first or you could get a shock.
•  Stand on a rubber mat when using electrical power tools in damp areas.
•  Unplug power tools before adjusting them.
•  Keep moving parts and sharp edges away from your body.
•  Use a vise or clamps to secure materials so that you can use both hands to operate the tool.
•  Turn off a power tool before you put it down.
•  Lift and carry power tools by the handle, not the cord, and don’t yank cords.
•  Keep your finger off the switch when you carry a plugged-in power tool.
•  Keep cords off the floor so that they don’t become tripping hazards.
•  Use only nonsparking tools in areas with flammable or explosive materials.

Why It Matters…

•     Power tools are useful but potentially dangerous pieces of equipment that can cause serious, even disabling, injuries such as amputations.
•     Because power tools are so commonly used both on and off the job, employees may not take hazards seriously enough.
•     Even if employees don’t use power tools at work, they probably use them at home, so they need to understand the hazards and precautions.