Hand tools safety guide
Even without electricity and fast-moving parts, hand tools can be dangerous.
Even without electric motors and fast-moving parts, hand tools can be dangerous. By taking a few simple precautions, you can finish your project without a trip to the first-aid kit – or to the emergency room.
Know how to use the tool in question. Read the directions on the packaging if applicable. The correct tool for the job prevents accidents. For example: using a pocketknife as a pry bar may seem like a good idea, but the blade often snaps. Because it must go somewhere when it separates from the handle, you have now made yourself a potential target. Use a real pry bar, a paint can opener, or other tool that was designed for the job in question.
Before you begin your project, perform a safety inspection on the tools. Be sure they are in proper working order so that they do not malfunction or break. Some things to check for include:
-Warped or bent wrenches
-Mushroomed heads on chisels
-Cracked handles on hammers
-Flattened or chewed-up heads on screwdrivers
Also: when you finish for the day (or complete the project), clean your tools thoroughly. By removing dirt, grease, and other debris from your tools, you are making them safer to use – and you’re extending their lives. It’s cheaper and safer to store clean tools than replace dirty ones.
Where you store your tools can also make a difference. Keeping them in a dry, safe place will keep them from rusting – or being stolen.
Wear safety equipment when necessary. Common sense dictates when and where to use safety glasses, hair nets, and nose filters, but packaging on the tools or supplies will often give further instructions.
Making sure that you’re properly dressed for the job will reduce the chances of an accident. It will also help you get the job done faster in most cases, because you won’t have to stop to flush your eyes or bandage a cut.
Reducing distractions at the work site – whether it’s a construction zone or your home garage – will also make accidents less likely. Make sure children are playing outside, and know not to come into the area where you’re working. If you want to listen to music, turn it down: background noise is usually less distracting than eighty-decibel rock music.
You should also make sure there is plenty of room to maneuver in your workspace. There should be enough space to move around, especially if you’re using a hammer or pry bar.
Check the workspace for hazardous chemicals before you begin. You don’t want the vibration of your hammer-and-chisel work to knock something acidic off the shelf and onto you. A quick walk-through only takes a couple of minutes and can prevent accidents such as the one described above.
Finally, be sure that there is enough lighting and ventilation in your work area. Most of the safety hazards lie not in the tools themselves, but in the area in which they are used. You should never use shellac or other hazardous chemicals without proper ventilation: nor should you try to hammer pieces of wood together in poor lighting conditions.
Just because you’re doing everything in your power to prevent an accident doesn’t mean you are out of the danger zone. Be prepared with a first-aid kit and emergency contact numbers in case of an injury. Keep the first-aid kit well-stocked with bandages, disinfectants, tweezers, antibiotic creams, tape, and painkillers (preferably aspirin or ibuprofen). Check the kit occasionally to make sure everything is there and in good working order. Pay special attention to the expiration dates on any medications you include in the kit.
In the end, common sense will prevail. When you’re doing the walk-through, think about the possibilities. Run scenarios through your mind before you pick up the screwdriver or hammer and you will decrease the chances of injuring yourself or someone you love.