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Hand and power tools like hammers, wrenches, drills, and screwdrivers are so common that workers may forget or ignore the hazards posed. The greatest hazards result from misuse and improper maintenance.

Use the right tool

The first rule of hand tool safety is to use the right tool for the job. Using a wrench as a hammer or using a screwdriver as a chisel or prybar can cause serious injuries. Using the wrong tool for a task increases the risk of damage to the tool, which increases the risk of injury.

Inspect the tool

The second rule is to inspect tools before each use, especially if they are shared among workers. At a minimum, each tool should be checked for:

  • Adequate lubrication,
  • Missing or loose parts,
  • Frayed or damaged power cords,
  • Proper guarding, and
  • Visible defects or damage.

A damaged or defective tool must be removed from service, and no employee should use it until repairs are completed.

Use the tool the right way

The third rule is to use the tool properly. This includes following the manufacturer’s instructions and wearing personal protective equipment if needed. It also includes using tools in a manner that allows a proper grip when applying force. A few tool-specific tips to share with employees include:

  • When using saw blades, knives, or cutting tools, direct the tools away from aisles and away from other employees working in close proximity.
  • Iron or steel hand tools may produce sparks that can be ignite 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.

Also, ensure that workers have adequate lighting, and keep floors clean and dry to prevent slips when working with hand tools.

Maintain the tool

The fourth rule is to properly maintain tools. Maintenance includes keeping tools clean and properly lubricated, but it also means making repairs when necessary. If repairs are not possible, replace the tool. Review some common problems:

  • If a wooden handle is loose or cracked, the head of the tool may fly off and strike the user or other employees.
  • If impact tools such as chisels or wedges have mushroomed heads, the heads could shatter on impact, sending fragments flying toward the user or others.
  • If knives, scissors, and other cutting tools are dull, they require more force and can be more hazardous than using sharp tools.

The employer is responsible for the safe condition of tools and equipment used by employees, and must not permit the use of unsafe hand tools. Employees, of course, should be trained in the proper inspection and use of tools and equipment.

Store the tool properly

The last rule is to store the tool properly when not in use. Leaving tools unattended in work areas, even temporarily, can pose trip hazards among others. It also leaves tools vulnerable to damage from other workers and equipment, such as forklifts.

Develop a formal storage system to ensure that all tools are accounted for each day, both for safety and to help prevent loss and theft. Designate an area specifically for hand tool storage. This helps prevent damage between use, as well as misuse by those who may not be trained. It also ensures that workers can find the right tool for the job, reducing violations of the first rule.