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Course 810 - Hand and Power Tool Safety

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Recognizing Hazards


This worker should be using chaps to protect his legs from contact by the sawchain.

This first module takes a look at the various hazards associated with working with tools and identifies ways to prevent worker injury through proper use of tools and personal protective equipment.

The employer is ultimately responsible for the safe condition of tools and equipment used by employees. Employers should never issue or permit the use of unsafe hand and power tools.

Employees should be trained in the proper use and handling of tools and equipment.

Workers should also be able to recognize the hazards associated with the different types of tools and the safety precautions necessary.

Five basic safety rules can help prevent hazards associated with the use of hand and power tools:

  1. Keep all tools in good condition with regular maintenance.
  2. Use the right tool for the job.
  3. Examine each tool for damage before use and do not use damaged tools.
  4. Operate tools according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  5. Provide and properly use the right personal protective equipment.

Employees and employers should work together to establish safe working procedures. If an employee encounters a hazardous situation, it should be brought immediately to the attention of the proper individual, which is usually the supervisor, immediately for hazard abatement.

Check out this short audio clip by Dan Clark of the It’s easy to forget how dangerous tools can be. They’re around every worksite and in constant use. Dan reminds us that tool safety is everyone’s responsibility.


Some tools are advertised as “ergonomic” or designed with ergonomic features. A tool becomes “ergonomic” only when it fits the task you are performing, and it fits your hand without causing awkward postures, harmful contact pressures, or other safety and health risks.

If you use a tool that does not fit your hand—or use the tool in a way it was not intended—you might develop an injury, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, or muscle strain.

These injuries do not happen because of a single event, such as a fall. Instead, they result from repetitive movements that are performed over time or for a long period.

Unsafe practices may result in damage to muscles, tendons, nerves, ligaments, joints, cartilage, spinal discs, or blood vessels. Below are some ergonomic issues to consider when using hand and power tools.

Neutral Position: When working with hand tools, it is good practice to maintain a neutral (handshake) wrist position. Remember, bend the tool, not the wrist.
Flexion and Extension: Design tasks and select tools to reduce extreme flexion or deviation of the wrist.
Power Grip: The hand grip that provides maximum hand power for high force tasks. All the fingers wrap around the handle.
Contact Pressure: Pressure from a hard surface, point, or edge on any part of the body.
Pinch Grip: The hand grip that provides control for precision and accuracy. The tool is gripped between the thumb and the fingertips.

What is the Best Tool?

The best tool does the following:

  • fits the job you are doing
  • fits the work space available
  • reduces the force you need to apply
  • fits your hand
  • can be used in a comfortable work position
  • does not require you to raise or extend the elbows (heavy tools)

Conditions that Cause Hand and Wrist Illnesses

The following are some of the conditions that can cause hand and wrist illnesses:

  • frequent or repetitive movement of the hand or wrist (usually associated with awkward wrist angulations)
  • inappropriate tool and equipment design
  • vibrating knives and saws
  • poor work station design and arrangement
  • cold environments

Symptoms of Hand and Wrist Illnesses


You may have a problem if you have any of these symptoms:

  • tingling
  • swelling in the joints
  • decreased ability to move
  • decreased grip strength
  • pain from movement, pressure, or exposure to cold or vibration
  • continual muscle fatigue
  • sore muscles
  • numbness
  • change in the skin color of your hands or fingertips

These symptoms may not appear immediately because they develop over weeks, months or years. By then, the damage may be serious. Take action before you notice any symptoms. (Source: CAL-OSHA)

Trigger Finger

Trigger Finger

“Trigger-finger” happens when one of your fingers or your thumb catches in a bent position. The finger or thumb may straighten with a snap.

It’s caused by the narrowing of the tendon sheath when repetitive gripping actions are performed. Tendons in the finger joints can swell due to overuse, “locking” the finger into a fixed position.

To avoid this condition, choose tools with triggers that allow two or three fingers to activate the tool.

Vibration White-Finger Syndrome

This humorous Napo video is a good example of tool selection to help prevent injuries from vibrating tools.

White-Finger Syndrome, which is also called Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), is caused by excessive vibration when using tools that can cause reduced blood circulation to the fingers. To help prevent this condition, use anti-vibration gloves.

Personal Protective Equipment


Safety equipment typically used with hand and power tools include safety glasses, safety shields, respirators, safety-toed shoes, high-top shoes, hard hats, bump caps, leather gloves, leather aprons, and coveralls. It’s very important to follow the safety measures below:

  • You should wear approved, industrial-quality eye protection at all times. Safety glasses should have the ANSI Z87.1 logo on them to assure they are industrial quality.
  • When handling carpentry materials, wear a hard hat or bump cap to protect your head.

Clothing and Grooming


Wear proper clothing. This varies depending on the type of hand or power tool you are working with.

  • Work clothing should not be loose, baggy, or highly flammable.
  • To protect against burns, wear clothing such as coveralls, high-top shoes, leather aprons and leather gloves.
  • Remove all paper from pockets and wear cuffless pants.
  • When working with heavy metals, wear hard-toed shoes with non-skid soles.
  • Avoid wearing synthetic clothing because it has a low flashpoints which can result in severe burns.
  • Do not wear jewelry. It can get caught in moving parts.

Work Area and Tool Condition


Keep work area and tools clean. Dirty, greasy, and oily tools and floors can cause accidents.

  • Clean and put away all unneeded tools and materials.
  • Workplace floors must be kept as clean and dry as possible to prevent accidental slips with or around dangerous hand tools.
  • Clean up spills and scraps from the floor and equipment.
  • Keep paths to exits clear. If conditions are dusty, use a respirator.

Keep cutting-edge tools sharp. Dull cutting-edge tools are dangerous as they require excessive pressure and hammering to make them cut.

  • When cutting, always cut away from the body.
  • Before using any cutting tool, remove nails or other objects that might destroy the tool's cutting edge.


A lack of attention to the work being performed can result in serious injuries. Loud talking as well as pushing, running, and scuffling while working with hand tools can also cause serious accidents. Be sure to do the following:

  • Keep your mind on your work.
  • Avoid horseplay and loud talk.
  • Be alert and work defensively.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Who is ultimately responsible for the safe condition of tools and equipment used in the workplace?

2. Which of the following is a tool that fits the task you are performing without causing awkward postures, harmful contact pressures, or other safety and health risks?

3. When choosing tools, the best tool is one that _____.

4. Which of the following is not a factor in causing hand and wrist illnesses?

5. Excessive vibration of the hand while using tools over time may cause _____.

Have a safe day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.