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Don’t Overpower the Safety Features of Power Tools

From screwdrivers and hammers to impact drivers and reciprocating saws, today’s workers are able to achieve levels of productivity earlier generations could only dream about. When hand and power tools are used correctly, they allow us to achieve significantly more in less time and with less effort. But if we use them improperly, they increase the chances of damage and injury.

All workers who use tools and their supervisors must be familiar with proper operation and maintenance of tools to minimize the potential for injuries. Safety plans begin with the recognition and awareness of hazards on the jobsite. This article examines the safety-related aspects of using hand and power tools.

Basic Tool Safety
Whether the tool is a powered or a non-powered, following three basic safety rules can minimize and even eliminate potential hazards. First is making sure the worker selects the proper tool for the task being performed. That sounds simple, but rather than return to a vehicle or tool cabinet, workers are often tempted to substitute another tool. The second rule is to always examine the tool before use. If there are obvious signs of damage or excessive wear, don’t use it and repair or dispose of it. The third rule is closely linked at: well-maintained tools last longer and are generally safer to use.

No matter what type of tool is being used, workers should know and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. They must also have access to and use the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) for the tool and the task.

Power Tool Considerations
Whether they’re powered by electricity, air, powder, or other sources, power tools typically create more hazards for workers because they operate with more force. Again, the most basic safety rules include using them properly and keeping them well-maintained.

Power tools should never be carried by their electrical cords or air hoses, and must always be carefully disconnected from receptacles when a task is complete. Jerking a power cord, an air hose, or a hydraulic line could lead to damage. Similarly, cords and hoses should be kept away from potentially damaging environments and materials, such as sharp-edged objects or heat sources. If cords are damaged, they should be tagged so that nobody uses them.

Power cords and hoses are selected to ensure they provide a safe and adequate source of electricity or air for operation, based upon guidance in the tool’s instructions. With electrical tools, remember that extension cords for longer distances require larger-gauge wires. When tools are being serviced or components such as blades are being changed, the tools should be completely disconnected to eliminate the risk of accidental start-up.

Perfect PPE
The choice of PPE depends heavily upon the tool and the task. Because power tools operate at higher intensity and speed, they often require more PPE.
ASV
Your local ASV dealer
CLM Equipment Co

One of the most common needs is eye protection. Depending upon the tool, task, and environment, safety glasses may be sufficient. At other times, a full face shield may be needed. Ear protection is also important if the worker is exposed to sustained levels of noise. Hearing loss is cumulative, and workers may not be aware that even if a noise is not painfully loud, it may be slowly stealing their hearing.

Gloves are often widely used with power tools, although the specifics may call for very different kinds of gloves. As an example, gloves designed to resist blade cuts may not provide much protection against abrasive devices.

Clothing choices are also very important. Loose-fitting clothes and jewelry can get caught in power tools and expose the wearer to injury. Safety shoes are a good choice, because they protect the feet if heavy tools are dropped.

Shields, Guards, and More
With tools or equipment with moving parts, additional devices may be used to protect workers. Guards and shields can prevent contact with moving assemblies, or to keep sparks and chipped materials from injuring operators.

Workers are often tempted to remove or disable safety devices to provide better access to the tool or perform a task, but should never do so. The same holds true for safety switches, overload devices, and other protective systems or items. If some type of safety interrupt keeps shutting the tool down, workers should not defeat or disable it. Instead, they should stop using the tool until it can be properly serviced.

Electric Tool Hazards
The biggest hazard associated with electrically powered tools is the potential for electrocution. However, it doesn’t take a high-current shock to cause serious health problems. A small amount of leaking current can affect the heartbeat, leading to more serious and sometimes fatal problems. When a worker is on a ladder or scaffold, even a small shock may startle and cause a loss of balance.

Proper grounding is critical, whether that is provided by a three-wire cord that is plugged into properly grounded outlet, or through a double-insulated tool. Never try to plug a tool that requires a three-prong plug into a non-grounded outlet or try to remove the third prong. Gloves and safety shoes provide additional protection. Finally, many workers forget that electricity and water don’t mix.

Air-Powered Tools
Many heavy-duty power tools are powered by air. Pneumatic tools tend to be very powerful, increasing the likelihood of injury when used incorrectly. In particular, attachments or fasteners may be propelled into the air, injuring workers in the area. That makes eye and face protection a must. Pneumatic tools may also be very loud, necessitating ear protection.

Workers should check regularly to ensure all tools and hoses are properly attached and securely fastened. Some tools have safety retainers, locking devices, or other safeguards, and these must be in good working order.

Powder-Actuated Tools
Tools powered by small charges of powder are often used when fasteners must pierce dense surfaces such as masonry walls. These tools are essentially guns, in which a type of firing pin triggers an explosion of powder, releasing the flow of energy in a particular direction. The typical powder-actuated tool is like a small rifle cartridge with the projectile portion removed.

That similarity to firearms underscores the potential hazards. In addition to protecting nearby workers from the force of the explosion, these tools should not be used in atmospheres that have the potential to become explosive or flammable. In addition, loaded tools should never be left unattended, and workers should inspect the tools closely to ensure the integrity of the tool and verify that there are no cracks or other signs of mechanical failure.

Hydraulic Tools
As with pneumatic tools, hydraulic-powered tools are more powerful, increasing the risk of injury. It’s important to verify that all connections are secure and all hoses and cylinders are free of leaks. When fluid needs to be replaced, it should be a fire-resistant type that can accommodate all temperatures in which the tool will be operated. The pressure of the fluid cannot exceed the rated values of all of the components.
Brushing Up on Safety
While most workers are already familiar with basic safety requirements of hand and power tools, they may forget details or become more careless over time. Regular reviews of these safety practices and proper supervision reduce the possibility of misuse and injury by keeping workers alert to the inherent dangers.
Volvo CE
Your local Volvo Construction Equipment dealer
ASCO Equipment
Sierra Machinery
Romco Equipment Co
Volvo CE
Your local Volvo Construction Equipment dealer
ASCO Equipment
Sierra Machinery
Romco Equipment Co