The invention of portable electric power tools benefits industry and workers in almost every field. Greater speed, increased production, reduced effort to perform tasks, and—in most cases—greater accuracy are the advantages these tools provide.
However, portable power tools also have hazards. Serious injuries can occur if you do not take precautions.
Electric power tools include grinders, drill presses, band saws, jig saws, circular saws, belt sanders, electric drills, table saws, radial arm saws, jointers, and paint spray guns.
Employees using electric tools must be aware of several dangers. Among the most serious hazards are electrical burns, shock, and heart failure.
Hand-held tools manufactured with non-metallic cases are called double-insulated. If approved, they do not require grounding under the National Electrical Code. Although this design method reduces the risk of grounding deficiencies, a shock hazard can still exist.
Double-insulated tools are often used in areas where there is considerable moisture or wetness. Although the user is insulated from the electrical wiring components, water can still enter the tool's housing. Ordinary water is a conductor of electricity. If water contacts the energized parts inside the housing, it provides a path to the outside, bypassing the double insulation. When a person holding a hand tool under these conditions contacts another conductive surface, an electric shock occurs.
If a power tool, even when double-insulated, is dropped into water, the employee should resist the initial human response to grab for the equipment without first disconnecting the power source.
Because power tools are so common in construction, workers are constantly exposed to a variety of hazards. The very tool that makes their job easy and efficient may one day be the cause of a tragic accident. It is good to be reminded of good-sense safety practices.
To prevent hazards associated with the use of power tools, workers should observe these general precautions. Click on the buttons to review best and worst practices.
In addition to tools with rotating parts, tools with parts that move back and forth (transverse) motion such as sanders and polishers can also cause "caught-in" injuries.
Loose fitting gloves can also increase the probability that they will get caught in rotating parts. Always make sure gloves are properly sized no matter what tools you're using.
Gloves aren't the only worry. Jewelry (rings, necklaces, etc.), loose clothing (long sleeve shirts, unbuttoned shirts, etc.), and long hair can also get caught in moving parts. Take off jewelry, wear short sleeve shirts, and tie up or net long hair to prevent getting caught in moving parts.
Remember a tool that has a rotating component, weighs more than you, or has a gap that gloves, jewelry,loose clothing, or hair could get sucked into, could kill you.
It's important to be familiar with the tool you're going to use by reading the operator's manual and, if needed, get some on-the-job training from a competent person on operating the tool. Make sure you know tool applications and limitations before you begin to use it. Make sure you leave the tool in good working condition when finished. Below are best practices prior and after using power tools.
This WorkSafeBC video demonstrates the importance of guarding and saw blade depth. It also provides tips on operating a circular saw safely.
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