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Course 810 - Hand and Power Tool Safety

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

Hand Tool Safety


Tools that are manually powered are called hand tools. Hand tools include anything from axes to wrenches. Common hand tools include: Tin snips, hatchets, screw drivers, hammers, pliers, anvils, wrenches, files, rasps, saws, punches, chisels, planes, hand-held boring tools, and pop rivet guns.

Wrong Tool for the Job

The greatest hazards posed by hand tools result from misuse and improper maintenance.

Some examples include the following:

wrong tool
  • If a chisel is used as a screwdriver, the tip of the chisel may break and fly off, hitting the user or other employees.
  • If a wooden handle on a tool, such as a hammer or an axe, is loose, splintered, or cracked, the head of the tool may fly off and strike the user or other employees.
  • If the jaws of a wrench are sprung, the wrench might slip.
  • If impact tools such as chisels, wedges, or drift pins have mushroomed heads, the heads might shatter on impact, sending sharp fragments flying toward the user or other employees.

Selecting the Right Tool for the Job


Before you select a tool, think about the job you will be doing. Tools are designed for specific purposes.

Using a tool for something other than its intended purpose often damages the tool and could cause you pain, discomfort, or injury. You reduce your chances of being injured when you select a tool that fits the job you will be doing. Examples include the following:

  • A job requiring cutting, pinching and gripping will require hand tools like pliers, snips and cutters.
  • A job requiring you to strike something will require some kind of hammer.
  • A job requiring you to drive or turn something will require screw or nut drivers and wrenches.

Check out this short audio clip by Dan Clark of the Hand safety means more that wearing PPE. Even jobs that don’t require gloves can be dangerous for hands. Repetitive motion can affect tendons and joints. Ergonomics can help with the design and arrangement of tools to maximize hand safety.

Tips for Selecting Hand Tools

Over time, exposure to awkward postures or harmful contact pressures can contribute to an injury. You can reduce your risk of injury if you select hand tools that fit your hand and the job you are doing. In the next tab, we'll discuss some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Single-Handle Tools

Tube-like tools measured by handle length and diameter. The diameter is the length of a straight line through the center of the handle.

  • For single-handle tools used for precision tasks, select a tool with a handle diameter of 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch.
  • For single-handle tools used for power tasks, select a tool that feels comfortable with a handle diameter in the range of 1 1/4 inches to 2 inches. You can increase the diameter by adding a sleeve to the handle.
single hand

Double-Handle Tools

Double-handle tools are measured by handle length and grip span. The grip span is the distance between the thumb and fingers when the tool jaws are open or closed.

  • For double-handle tools (plier-like) used for power tasks, select a tool with a grip span that is at least 2 inches when fully closed and no more than 3 1/2 inches when fully open. Consider using a clamp, a grip, or locking pliers when continuous force is required.
  • For double-handle tools used for precision tasks, select a tool with a grip span that is no less than 1 inch when fully closed and no more than 3 inches when fully open.
  • For double-handled pinching, gripping, or cutting tools, select a tool with handles that are spring-loaded to return the handles to the open position.
double handle
grip span

Edges and Surfaces

It’s important to consider the edges and surfaces of the handles of tools you want to use. Be sure to check the following:

  • Select a tool without sharp edges or finger grooves on the handle.
  • Select a tool that is coated with soft material.


Select a tool with an angle that allows you to work with a straight wrist.

  • Tools with bent handles are better than those with straight handles when the force is applied horizontally (in the same direction as your straight forearm and wrist).
  • Tools with straight handles are better than those with bent handles when the force is applied vertically.
  • For tasks requiring high force, select a tool with a handle length longer than the widest part of your hand—usually 4 inches to 6 inches.
  • Prevent contact pressure by making sure the end of the handle does not press on the nerves and blood vessels in the palm of your hand. If the handle is too short, the end will press against the palm of your hand and may cause an injury.
  • Select a tool that has a non-slip surface for a better grip. Adding a sleeve to the tool improves the surface texture of the handle. To prevent tool slippage within the sleeve, make sure that the sleeve fits snugly during use. Remember, a sleeve always increases the diameter or the grip span of the handle.
handle length

Proper Tool Use

tool use

Be sure to follow these general rules when using hand tools:

  • Inspect tools before using.
  • Avoid using damaged tools.
  • Tools that appear to be damaged or have broken handles should be marked unsafe.
  • Do not use damaged or defective tools until they have been repaired.

Always use proper-sized tools and equipment for the job. Use each tool only for the job for which it was intended. Forcing a small tool to do the job of a large one may result in injury or tool damage. Follow these guidelines:

  • Never use a screw driver to see if electrical circuits are hot.
  • Never use a machinist's hammer in place of a carpenter's hammer.
  • Do not strike a hardened steel surface, such as an anvil, with a steel hammer because a small piece of steel may break off and injure someone.
  • Be sure wrenches fit properly.
  • Never use pliers in place of a wrench.
  • Never strike wrenches with hammers or use wrenches as hammers.
  • Pull on wrenches. Do not push.
  • When sawing, secure the material in the saw vise.
  • Watch your fingers. Take special care when hammering so that you strike the object, not your fingers.

Tool Replacement and Storage

tool storage

To make sure tools remain in good condition, follow these guidelines when replacing and storing tools:

  • Carry and store all hand and power tools properly.
  • Carry all sharp-edge tools and chisels with the cutting edge down.
  • Do not carry sharp tools in a pocket.
  • Store all sharp-edge cutting tools with the sharp edges down.
  • Grip and hold tools so that they do not slip and hit someone.
  • Do not wear gloves if they are bulky and make gripping tools difficult.
  • Keep other employees away from the work when using saw blades, knives, or other tools.
  • Keep tools away from aisle areas and away from other employees.
  • Knives and scissors must be sharp.
  • Remove cracked saw blades from service.
  • Replace wrenches when jaws are sprung to the point that slippage occurs.
  • Replace tools with mushroomed heads, such as impact tools such as drift pins, wedges, and chisels.
  • Replace all tools with splintered wooden handles.
  • Do not store iron or steel hand tools that may produce sparks around flammable substances.
  • Store only spark-resistant tools made of non-ferrous materials where flammable gases, highly volatile liquids, and other explosive substances are stored.


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. Which of the following causes the greatest hazards posed by hand tools?

2. For double-handled pinching, gripping, or cutting tools, select a tool with handles that are _____.

3. When a task requires high force, which of the following tool handles would be best?

4. What should you do with a hand tool that has a broken handle?

5. Which of the following is not listed as an unsafe work practice when using hand tools?

Have a safe day!

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