4 Tips For Improving Power Tool Safety
Date Posted:17 November 2016
Power tools are used a range of processes in the building and construction industries and make life much easier for tradespeople and DIYers alike. While power tools are highly useful, they can also be extremely dangerous if used incorrectly or without proper precautions.
Emergency departments treat a range of injuries related to power tool use every year, from severed fingers, to broken bones and even deaths. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at four key aspects of power tool safety and how you can minimise the likelihood of power tool related accidents occurring both in the workplace and at home.
1. Your tools
The old saying that a worker is only as good as his or her tools is particularly true when it comes to power tools. An increase in foreign imports has seen a proliferation of cheap power tools on the market and, while they are required to meet Australian safety standards, they are often made from inferior materials and have a relatively short shelf life.
So the best way to ensure your power tools are safe is to buy good quality tools and regularly maintain them. This involves inspecting them before every use to ensure they are working properly and are not damaged in any way. Common problems can include broken bits and blades, frayed cords and broken safety guards, all of which should be replaced before use.
2. Your clothing
Power tools involve components moving at high speed, so it is important to dress properly when using them. Long hair, jewellery and loose clothing can all be safety hazards, as they could become entangled in the machine’s mechanism and cause major injuries
Regardless of whether you are on a building site or in your own backyard, appropriate clothing should be worn at all times. Depending on the type of power tool being used, this could include safety goggles to protect your eyes against flying particles, earplugs to prevent hearing damage, covered shoes, or ideally steel capped boots, to protect your feet and gloves, not only to protect your hands, but also to give you a better grip on the tools you are operating.
3. Your work area
The location in which you are using a power tool is also an important factor in regards to safety. A cluttered work area with dangling cords and tripping hazards is a recipe for disaster. So are unstable work surfaces and unsecured work pieces. Debris such as sawdust can be also be ignited by sparks from a power tool, so having a clean work area is crucial.
Sometimes on building sites, conditions might not be ideal for operating power tools. You may be required to work at heights where footing is less stable or in dimly lit areas or places where water is present. The key to remaining safe in such circumstances is to only use your power tools in the correct manner (as the manufacturer intended) and to not use them if they cannot be used safely (i.e. electric power tools should never be used in damp or wet areas). You should also be aware of others working in your vicinity and make sure your actions are not endangering them in any way.
4. Your work practices
The fourth factor in power tool safety is how you operate your tools. If you are using a new tool you that haven’t used before, it is important to consult the manufacturer’s instructions so you are thoroughly familiar with the tool’s particular capabilities and limitations. Different models can have different specifications and tolerances, so don’t assume you know how to operate it simply because you have operated similar power tools in the past.
As well as being familiar with each of your tools, general work practices that you can adopt to ensure safe use of power tools include:
Always carry your tools correctly (i.e. without your finger on the trigger and with the safety switch on).
Always unplug corded power tools from the outlet and make sure to pull it out by the plug (never pull them out by the cord).
When power tools are not being used, turn them off, unplug them and store them safely away until needed (this is particularly pertinent to DIYers with young children).
Treat a power tool such as a nail gun as if it were a loaded weapon and never point it at another person.
Improve your power tool safety
Using power tools safely isn’t rocket science. It’s mostly common sense and if you take these four key factors into consideration when using them, you’re much less likely to experience a power tool incident.