Hand and Portable Power Tool Safety
By Sean M. Alvarez, CSP
When we think of workplace hazards,
the first things that often come to mind are complex machines
or chemicals. We often overlook some of the biggest hazards
in general industry - hand and portable power tools. These
simple, everyday tools can be very helpful in getting a job
done faster. At the same time, hand and portable power tools
can one of the biggest hazards your employees may encounter
and can cause serious injury if not used and maintained properly.
A comprehensive Hand and Portable
Power Tool Safety Program is necessary to reduce or eliminate
many of the hazards associated with hand or power tool usage:
Hand and portable power tools are
frequently used in hard to reach places. If you are working
off of a ladder, a scaffold or similar elevated location,
falling hazards need to be considered.
Securing tools deeply into a tool
belt, ensuring that toe boards are present on scaffolds and
keeping the work are beneath you clear and free of other workers
are just a few of the ways to help minimize falling hazards.
Additionally, wearing a hard hat in areas where fall hazards
are likely may help you to prevent severe injury.
Flying hazards result from the
motion of hand and power tools. A poorly struck nail, a worn
wire brush or using a circular saw or grinder can all send
particles or fragments into flight. These "flying"
objects travel at high rates of speed and can easily penetrate
skin or eyes.
To help reduce to generation of
hazardous flying objects, ensuring that guards are present
and not modified and utilizing proper shielding. Keeping the
work area clear of other workers may also help to mitigate
flying hazards. Additionally, make sure that you are wearing
proper skin, hand and eye protection.
Cuts and Abrasion Hazards
Knives, chisels, snips, saws or
simply any hand or power tool with a sharp edge can result
in a severe cut or abrasion if handled improperly.
To reduce the chance for cuts,
keep sharp edges pointed and operated away from your body.
Inspecting your tools for undesigned sharp edges or burrs
may also help to reduce cut injuries.
Unintentional contact with a grinding
wheel, electric sander or even a hand file can cause abrasions
to your skin.
Ensuring that guards are present
and not modified may help to mitigate both cut and abrasion
hazards. Wearing cut resistant skin and hand protection may
provide additional protection.
Respiratory hazards can exist whenever
a hand or power tool is used to remove material that you are
working on. Grinding, sawing, sanding and drilling are examples
of hand or power tool activities that may generate nuisance
or hazardous dusts or fumes.
Providing proper ventilation or
partical removal at the source should help to reduce exposure
to breathing hazards. You should become familiar with the
materials being generated as the result of your hand or power
tool activity and wear respiratory protection appropriate
for the hazard.
Electrical Burns and Shocks
Since many power tools utilize
a corded power source, the possibility of electrical burns
or shocks exits.
- Do not use damaged electrical cords or connections.
- Always inspect the cord or connection prior to use.
- Use of a ground fault circuit interruptor (GFCI) will
help to reduce the risk of shock
- · Do not use electric-powered tools in damp or
Use extreme caution when drilling, cutting or sawing into
"blind" locations. Electrical sources may be present
and, if cut into, may cause electrical burns and/or shocks.
Slips, Trips and Falls
Good housekeeping in the working area may also help to prevent
slips, trips and falls while working with hand and power tools.
Routing electrical cords or air hoses out of traffic areas
or routing them overhead may also help to prevent tripping
Failing to properly use and maintain hand and power tools
causes thousands injuries each year. Everyone who uses these
tools must learn to recognize the hazards associated with
the different types of tools and the safety precautions necessary
to prevent those hazards. You should identify the hand or
power tools used in your workplace and develop a written plan
and training program to address recognition and control of
At minimum, your Hand and Portable Power Tool Safety Program
- Non-powered hand tools
- Electric tools
- Portable abrasive wheel tools
- Pneumatic tools
- Liquid fuel tools
- Powder-actuated tools
- Hydraulic power tools
Your plan should include these fundamental hand and power
- Using the right tool for the job
- Keeping all tools in good working condition
- Inspecting all tools prior to use
- Using the tools as designed by the manufacturer
- Never removing guards or modifying safety features built
- Protecting employees by using appropriate PPE
Here are some helpful links to assit you in developing a
Hand and Portable Power Tool Safety Program:
Power Tool Safety Tips - Memorial Hospital - Towanda,
Power Tool Institute
- Excellent site for power tool specific safety
guidance. Free streaming power tool safety video &
is Specific" publication (PDF) on power tool safety.
- Hand and Power Tool Safety page
and Power Tools. OSHA Publication (PDF). Includes information
on the dangers of hand and power tools and safety precautions.
/ Power Tool Safety Links - Comprehensive list of tool-specific
links. Provided by the The National Ag Safety Database (NASD).
Includes some in documents in spanish.
Services Safety. Office of Health and Safety Information
System (OhASIS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC), Health and Safety Manuals, Engineering Safety Manual.
entitled "General Shop/Work Area Safety" contains
a section (Section I) on hand and portable power tools
NIOSH Hazard Controls. DHHS Publications series regarding
OSHA 1910 Subpart P, Hand and Portable Power Tools and Other
Hand and portable powered tools and equipment, general.
Guarding of portable powered tools.
Other portable tools and equipment.
Logging operations. Paragraph (e) contains requirements
for hand and portable powered tools.
requesting interpretation of the OSHA electrical standards
as they apply to employees using insulated hand tools
- OSHA Interpretations
Canadian Standards Association, a nationally recognized testing
laboratory, marking and double insulated tools - OSHA
of manufactured products intended for use in the workplace
- OSHA Interpretations
of general protective equipment and tools by employees when
working near exposed energized conductors or circuit parts
in the workplace - OSHA Interpretations
recognition, regulations and policy of double insulated power
tools - OSHA Interpretations
of 1910.212(a)(3)(ii) to Portable Pneumatic Powered Fastener
Tools - OSHA Interpretations
on extension cords for portable hand tools - OSHA Interpretations
that a safety device to automatically cut off the flow of
compressed air applies only to pneumatic power tools -
tools must be designed and used in accordance with good engineering
practices - OSHA Interpretations
of 1910.212 and 1910.242 as applying to hand-type office paper
cutters and sharp edged hand tools - OSHA Interpretations
OSHA - Shipbuilding - 1915
Subpart H, Tools and Related Equipment
OSHA - Marine Terminals
and Portable Power Tools. OSHA's Small Business Outreach
Training Program Instructional Guide
and Power Tools - OSHA Construction Safety and Health
and Power Tools for Construction - Osha Construction Hand
and Power Tools page
OSHA Construction Standards - 1926
Subpart I, Tools - Hand and Power.
1926.302, Power-operated hand tools.
Abrasive wheels and tools.
Jacks-lever and ratchet, screw, and hydraulic.
Mechanical power-transmission apparatus.
of insulated hand tools - OSHA Interpretations
wheels are to be guarded as cutting saws - OSHA Interpretations.
electric tools need to be tested by a qualified national testing
laboratory and be listed and labeled - OSHA Interpretations
Power Tool Safety - University of Denver, Risk Management
to Shop and Tool Safety" Training Program - National
High Magnetic Field Laboratory - operated by Florida State
Tools Training Guide - UC Berkeley, Labor Occupational
Health Program Factsheets
Tools Safety Walkaround Checklist - UC Berkeley, Labor
Occupational Health Program Factsheets
Power Tools Training Guide - UC Berkeley, Labor Occupational
Health Program Factsheets
Power Tools Safety Walkaround Checklist - UC Berkeley,
Labor Occupational Health Program Factsheets
Power Tools Safety Meeting Presentation - NC State University
Tool Safety - University of Maine - Farm Safety Program
Tool Safety Manual - Florida State University
Risk of Hand-Arm Vibration Injury from Hand-Held Power Tools
- UK Health and Safety Executive Information Document
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