Tool Safety Tips

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What safety issues are raised by dull tools?

Sharper Is Better

Bladed tools have obvious inherent dangers. Sharp edges and moving blades must be respected in the work area, but dull blades are actually far more dangerous. A cutting tool's ability to function predictably depends on a keen blade. When the blade dulls, hand tool safety is compromised and your tools can start behaving in dangerously unpredictable ways; kickbacks, variations in cutting speed and quality, and even the breaking of the cutting surface in some cases. An unpredictable cutting tool is a dangerous one. Beginners often don't notice dulling in their tools until it is advanced enough to be a hazard. A good way to add some safety to the beginner's toolbox is to keep a set of brand new spares handy. The moment you notice dullness, you can set aside the old blade and get started on the job again. You don't have to delay work to sharpen the old blades or purchase new ones. The expense of keeping the spares is offset by the ability to keep working, and once your old blades are resharpened you can hang on to them until they are needed. This will double the time needed before you must buy new blades again.

   
What can I do to increase my personal safety margin around power tools?

Power Tool Safety And Jewelry

Smart power tool operators do not wear jewelry of any kind during work. Even a wedding ring can get caught in just the wrong way with some equipment, raising the risk of amputation of the ring finger. Any kind of dangling object is a major safety liability around power tools, including sleeves, shirt tails, and necklaces. Good tool safety measures include minimizing any risk of a foreign object becoming entangled in your power tools. Remove all jewelry, button down sleeves, and even pin back loose dangling hair to maximize your safety margin around power tools and their accessories with moving parts.

   
What's the difference between safety glasses and safety goggles?

Power Tools And Eye Safety

Power tool use means an inherent hazard to the eyes, and smart users wear eye protection at all times when the tools are running. It's just too easy to get a wood splinter, metal shaving, or other matter lodged in the eye because of the force and speed of a cutting tool. There are two basic types of eye protection; safety glasses and safety goggles, and not all eye protection is created equal. A pair of goggles is far safer for most applications, completely shielding the eye from foreign matter. Some kinds of safety glasses protect only the area in front of the eyes, leaving the sides exposed. They are usually built for a particular type of work, and are often supplemented by a face shield for additional protection.

Some safety goggles are made from thin plastic, and are best for most casual use around the shop; if you are working with heated materials, its better to invest in a more solid form of eye protection specifically rated for that kind of work. There's a reason why welding goggles are designed the way they are; aside from the dark lenses, they are built to withstand the heat of a stray sparks and other hot debris. Get the right safety tools for the right job for maximum protection.

   
What is an eyewash station?

What Is An Eyewash Station?

Industrial workshops and military repair depots safety tools will include a specialized fountain station designed for eye mishaps involving chemicals. These eyewash stations are built for easy access in case a worker's eyes need to be flushed as part of a first aid procedure, or "just in case".

Most private workshops don't need the expense of one of these customized eyewash fountains, but it's important to have some kind of means to flush out someone's eyes in the event of an accident. If you have a sink installed in your shop, this is a simple thing--just attach a rubber hose to a faucet, and you have a directional flow of water that can be used in exactly the same way. If you don't have a water line in your shop, it's very important to keep at least two very large bottles of ordinary saline, the same kind contact lens wearers use. When flushing the eyes, you need enough solution for a prolonged rinse, or at least enough to last until you can get the injured person to a constant flow of water. Some substances require ten minutes or more of continuous flushing before relief becomes apparent, so having a large supply of saline is a very good idea.

   
What can I do to increase safety on the job with newcomers?

Tool Training And Safety

If you work with power tools on the job, it's easy to assume that everyone in the shop has the same expertise as you, but new hires, temporary employees, and contractors have a wide range of experience levels. Sometimes the most important safety step you can take with regard to power tools is asking a simple question; "How much experience do you have on this power tool?" If you observe newcomers to your work area making obvious newbie errors such as placing a hand behind a power saw during the cut, or operating a cutting tool in an unsafe manner, you may need to stop the worker and give some on-the-spot training. If you don't have time to do the training yourself, you can always have the worker assigned to a less dangerous (to them) task, or make them read the manual on that particular tool before continuing with the work.

   
What are my rights and responsiblities on the job with power tools?

Workplace Power Tool Safety

Federal law requires that employers provide a safe work environment for those using power tools. That requirement, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's OSHA regulations, says employers must "furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees".

If you are on the job with equipment that has compromised power tool safety features, frayed power cords, or other safety problems, it's your right - and responsibility - to turn these power tools over to a supervisor and request replacements. Do not work or allow others to work with malfunctioning tools or tools in poor repair. If you find yourself in need of evidence to make a case for the replacement or repair of such tools, it is a very good idea to use a cell phone camera or small digital camera to take photos of the tools in question, paying particular attention to the defects where visible, and any company logo or identifying stamp. These photographs make a very strong case for getting the tools replaced. They can also be considered evidence in cases of employer negligence cases.

   
Where can I find the federal guidelines for power tool and hand tool safety in the workplace?

Where Do I Look To Find Federal Safety Guidelines For Hand And Power Tools?

Did you know the U.S. Department of Labor has a set of guidelines that dictate proper use of power and hand tools in the workplace? Ignorance of power tool safety rules won't help you in the case of a mishap or liability connected with a workplace accident. Knowing exactly what federal guidelines say will not only keep you free from litigation, but will increase the safety margins and productivity of your work crews. Did you know federal safety rules prohibit splintered wooden handles on hand tools? Or that spark-resistant hand tools must be used near potential sources of flammable liquids? What are your hammers, saws, and screwdrivers made of? Did you know that all damaged tools must be clearly labeled, "do not use?" These rules are all clearly spelled out on OSHA's website.

   
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Patricia Walters-Fischer