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Hand and Power Tools

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the hazards associated with different types of hand and power tools.
  • List some general steps that are necessary to prepare for safe hand and power tool use.
  • Explain some general actions that are necessary to operate different types of hand and power tools safely.

Available in English, Spanish

20 minutes

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5-Min Reminder

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Demo our Hand and Power Tools Safety Course

Power tool injuries account for as many as 400,000 emergency room visits each year.

The use of tools enables us to work much more productively, but hand and power tools can expose workers to flying objects like sparks and metal and wood splinters, electrical shock, and sharp blades and loud noises. Check out our 30 Tips for Hand and Power Tool Safety

As tool users, employees have a primary role in safety. Employees must have clear, established safety protocols for working with each unique piece of equipment and workers must follow those procedures when using tools, while relying on training to operate equipment safely.

First, workers must dress for the job by removing loose clothing or articles that could get caught in a tool’s moving parts, including jewelry when necessary. They must also wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when required; even with hand tools the job or the tool will often require specific personal protective equipment. PPE only works if you wear it.

Other basic safety precautions include:

  • Using the right tool for the job—a wrench is not a hammer.
  • Following manufacturer instructions—don’t by-pass safety features.
  • Never carrying a power tool by its cord.
  • Never yanking a cord or hose to disconnect it from the power source.
  • When appropriate, secure work with a clamp or vise to keep it from slipping.
  • Be careful to keep footing and balance stable when working with dangerous tools.
  • Be aware of the other people around you and keep them at a safe distance.

Misuse occurs when a tool is used for a job other than its intended purpose and can lead to tool failure. Never force or modify a tool to get the job done.  

When tools aren’t properly maintained, they can present a hazard. For example, tools with dull blades do not perform as intended and cause more injuries than sharp tools.

And when iron or steel tools are used in the presence of flammable substances, sparks can fly, causing an ignition hazard.

While many power tools are now battery powered or work through compressed air via pneumatic pumps, the risk of electric shock remains a major hazard commonly resulting in accidents when working with power tools. Here are some steps to take for working with electric power tools safely:

  • For electric tools, keep floors dry and clean to avoid slipping while working with or around dangerous tools.
  • Keep cords from presenting a tripping hazard.
  • Examine tools and cords for damage before use.
  • Use tools that are double-insulated or have a three-pronged cord and are plugged into a grounded receptacle.  
  • Do not use electric tools in wet conditions unless they are approved for that use.
  • Do not exceed the design limitation of the tool.
  • Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) or an assured grounding program.
  • Use appropriate PPE.

Since the primary hazard of pneumatic tools relates to parts of the tool not being connected securely, safety measures require that you verify that tools are fastened securely before use.  

Here are some steps you can take to work with pneumatic tools safely:

  • Never point a compressed air gun at anyone or press one against yourself or anyone else.
  • When you are finished using the tool, make sure that the pressure is released before you break the hose connections.
  • Use a safety clip or retainer to prevent attachments from being ejected during operation, and use a chip guard when using high-pressure compressed air for cleaning. Be sure to limit the nozzle pressure to 30 pounds per square inch.
  • Always wear eye protection—head and face protection is recommended along with ear protection when working with noisy tools.
  • Use screens to protect nearby workers from flying fragments and never store a loaded air gun or leave it unattended.

Demo our Hand and Power Tools Course

Course Outline
  • Identifying Hazards
  • Preparing for Use
  • Using Tools Safely
Regulations
  • 29 CFR 1910.241 to 1910.244
  • 29 CFR 1926.300 to 1926.307
  • Hand and Power Tools, Occupational Safety and Health Administration
  • Safety Tips to Follow When Using a Table Saw, Power Tool Expert