Managing Hand-Tool Hazards
Compared with a vat of chlorine or a huge industrial machine, a hammer seems pretty harmless. But workers who use simple hand tools shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of safety.
Consider these hazards:
- Using a screwdriver as a chisel may cause the tip of the screwdriver to break and fly, hitting the user or other employees.
- If a wooden handle on a tool such as a hammer or an axe is loose, splintered or cracked, the head of the tool may fly off and strike the user or another worker.
- Impact tools such as chisels, wedges or drift pins are unsafe if they have mushroomed heads. The heads might shatter on impact, sending sharp fragments flying.
The greatest hazards posed by hand tools result from misuse and improper maintenance. The following tips and checklist is to help workers refresh their hand tool safety awareness.
Hand Tool Safety Notes
The employer is responsible for the safe condition of tools and equipment used by employees, but the employees have the responsibility for properly using and maintaining tools and reporting unsafe tools to their supervisor.
- Sharp blades such as saw blades, knives or other tools should be directed away from aisle areas and other employees working in close proximity.
- Knives and scissors must be sharp. Dull tools can be more hazardous than sharp ones.
- Appropriate personal protective equipment, e.g., safety goggles, gloves, etc., should be worn due to hazards that may be encountered while using portable power tools and hand tools.
- Safety requires that floors be kept as clean and dry as possible to prevent accidental slips with or around dangerous hand tools.
- Around flammable substances, sparks produced by iron and steel hand tools can be a dangerous ignition source. Where this hazard exists, spark-resistant tools made from brass, plastic, aluminum or wood will provide for safety.
Hand Tool and Equipment Checklist
- Are all tools and equipment used by employees at their workplace in good condition?
- Are hand tools such as chisels and punches, which develop mushroomed heads during use, reconditioned or replaced as necessary?
- Are broken or fractured handles on hammers, axes and similar equipment replaced promptly?
- Are worn or bent wrenches replaced regularly?
- Are appropriate handles used on files and similar tools?
- Are employees made aware of the hazards caused by faulty or improperly used hand tools?
- Are appropriate safety glasses, face shields, etc., worn while using hand tools or equipment that might produce flying materials or be subject to breakage?
- Are jacks checked periodically to ensure they are in good operating condition?
- Are tool handles wedged tightly in the head of all tools?
- Are tool cutting edges kept sharp so the tool will move smoothly without binding or skipping?
- Are tools stored in dry, secure locations where they won’t be tampered with?
- Is eye and face protection used when changing tong dies, or driving hardened / tempered studs or nails?