I visited with a client several years ago that had a large loss injury claim when a grinding wheel disintegrated and became embedded in an employee’s forehead. I was in the shop area observing employees and found the very same previously injured employee using a grinder with the guard removed and no eye or face protection worn. What was the employee’s reasoning behind his decision to risk it? Well, he was certain the same injury would not happen again and it was just too hard to do his job with the guard on the grinder. We talked about his accident, lost time from work, the financial impact on his family, and the company’s policy regarding safe hand and power tool use. It was a job requirement not to remove the guard from the grinder. The employee had also received training.
Accidents will continue to happen until behaviors change. You don’t want to risk your safety when it comes to something as simple as tools. Hand tools and power tools are used commonly in the workplace and may pose serious hazards to workers when used improperly, when in use and broken, or not using the right tool for the job. Many tools are manufactured with guards to make it safer to use, but unfortunately, accidents occur when those guards are bypassed or removed. Workers must be trained by their employer to recognize hazards and avoid the risk. If that tool is broken – Do Not Use. If it is the wrong tool then go get the right one. If all else fails, ask your supervisor.
Hand and power tools is a focus topic discussed in one of your OSHA 10-hour online training modules. It’s no wonder why: construction work is heavily dependent on the use of hand and power tools. About 40 percent of tool-related injuries are attributed to nail guns, according to Forbes.com using data from the CDC. This percentage translates to 37,000 people annually.
In the United Kingdom, 16,003 hospital emergency visits were attributed to power tool-related injuries from 2001-2002, according to information from the UK Department of Trade and Industry’s Home and Leisure Accident database. Circular saws cause 28 percent of the total hand injuries; electric drills are found as the cause of 17 percent of hand injuries; and hedge trimmers 12 percent.
Avoid costly injuries by observing OSHA’s general safety recommendations for using hand and power tools safely below:
Use hand tools for their intended use. For instance, screwdrivers are not impact tools and should not be used to chip away at wooden surfaces.
Handle power tools properly. Do not unplug power tools by pulling on their cords, nor should you carry them by their cords. When holding the tools, hold it by the grip and do not press on the switch to avoid accidentally turning on the equipment.
Do not remove machine guarding from energized tools. Make sure to use tools with their appropriate guarding. These guarding protect your fingers, and you, from getting caught in or between.
Examine tool for damages before and after use. Inspect tools to spot possible damages before using them. Report the damages to authorities. Do not attempt to repair these damages yourself.
Employers are also responsible for reminding workers to keep a safe distance from coworkers and passageways when working with hand and power tools that have sharp ends (OSHA warns though that dull tools can be as harmful as sharp tools too). Employers should also provide workers the proper PPE (personal protective equipment) to wear and machine guarding to use at no cost.
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