Essential Tips for Power Tool Safety

Power tools are a significant source of injuries both in the workplace and at home. Today, our Safety Training Tips Editor offers some key tips for using them safely.

Start workers out safely with the right PPE. When employees use power tools on the job or at home, they have to think about more than just safe work procedures (as important as those are). They also have to think about what kind of personal protective equipment (PPE) they might need. For example, they’ll always need to wear eye protections (most often safety goggles), but they might also need:

•   A dust mask
•   Gloves
•   A face shield
•   Hearing protection
•   Safety shoes

Train employees to read the manufacturer’s safety instructions or to check with a supervisor before using a power tool if they’re not sure which type of PPE is required to prevent injuries.

Make sure they power up properly. Power tools are handy helpers. But they can also deliver paralyzing, even deadly shocks. They can also cut off fingers, and slash, cut, and mangle flesh and bones. To keep safe when using power tools on the job or at home, train employees in these essential power tool do’s and don’ts:

•   Use the right tool for the job.
•   Inspect tools before each use.
•   Make sure there are guards around points of operation and on/off switches.
•   Make sure tools are switched off before you plug them in.
•   Turn off and unplug tools before cleaning or changing parts.
•   Use three-prong grounding extension cords with equipment requiring three-prong plugs. (Don’t use three-prong cords with two-prong adapters!)
•   Remove damaged or malfunctioning power tools from service immediately.

•   Don’t put a power tool down until it has completely stopped running.
•   Don’t use cords to raise or lower equipment.
•   Don’t fasten cords with staples, nails, or other fasteners that could damage cord insulation.
•   Don’t plug or unplug equipment with wet or sweaty hands.
•   Don’t use any tool that has a damaged casing, cord, or plug.
•   Don’t continue to operate a power tool that sparks, smokes, gives a shock, or smells like it is burning.
•   Don’t get clothes or body parts near the point of operation.
•   Don’t use electric power tools in wet areas unless the tools have been specially approved for such use.

Teach these tips for power saws. Power saws are among the most commonly used power tools and they’re also among the most dangerous. Train employees to take these precautions when using table and other power saws:

•   Make sure the saw blade is properly guarded to prevent contact with hands, arms, or legs.
•   Maintain a clear view of the saw at the point of operation.
•   Pay attention to what you’re doing and know where both hands are at all times.
•   When using a table saw, stand to one side to keep your body out of line with the material being cut. Use a pusher stick to guide materials toward the saw blade, not your hand.
•   Turn off the saw and disconnect the power to make adjustments or change blades.
•   Turn off the saw between jobs or when you leave the work area, even for a short time.
•   Always wear safety goggles glasses with side shields when using a table saw.
•   Use a mask to keep from inhaling dust.
•   Keep the area around the saw clean so that you don’t trip or stumble over scrap or other materials while working.
•   Maintain the saw properly to keep it running efficiently and safely.

Why It Matters…

•   Power tools are commonly used on the job, in home workshops, and on lawns and in gardens.
•   There are hundreds of thousands of power tool accidents and injuries. 
•   It only takes a second of inattention to lose a finger or sever an artery while using some power tools.  
•   It’s a safe bet that many of your employees—if not most—use power tools at work or at home.