Tool Safety: Some tips on reducing tool-related injuries

Tool Safety by Joe Escobar The working environment of an aircraft mechanic is filled with hazards. From toxic chemicals to high sound levels, we must always be diligent at working safely. But one area that can sometimes be neglected is in...

Tool Safety
by Joe Escobar

The working environment of an aircraft mechanic is filled with hazards. From toxic chemicals to high sound levels, we must always be diligent at working safely. But one area that can sometimes be neglected is in the area of tool safety. This article will briefly discuss some things that can be done to help prevent injuries that are caused by our everyday tools.

General safety rules
In terms of general safety rules, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends the following five basic safety rules to help prevent hazards associated with the use of hand and power tools:
• Keep all tools in good condition with regular maintenance.
• Use the right tool for the job.
• Examine each tool for damage before use and do not use damaged tools.
• Operate tools according to the manufacturers' instructions.
• Provide and use properly the right personal protective equipment.

Another good safety tip to note is to maintain a clean work area. Accidental slips can cause severe injury when working with any types of tools.

In addition to these general guidelines, there are some specific safety rules associated with each class of tool used.

Hand tools
Hand tools can include anything from hammers to safety wire pliers. According to OSHA, the greatest hazards posed by hand tools result from misuse and improper maintenance. If a chisel is used as a screwdriver, the tip of the chisel may break and fly off, injuring the user or other employees. If a wooden handle of a tool such as a rubber mallet is loose, splintered, or cracked, the head may fly off and cause injury. If the jaws of a wrench are sprung, the wrench might slip. If impact tools like rivet sets have mushroomed heads, the heads might shatter on impact, sending sharp fragments flying toward the user or other employees.

Remember that whenever using cutting tools like saw blades or knives, they should be directed away from the aisle areas and away from other employees working in close proximity. Also keep knives and scissors sharp; dull tools are more dangerous than dull ones.

Keep in mind that iron or steel hand tools may produce sparks that can be an ignition source around flammable substances. When working in a fire hazard area, spark-resistant tools made of non-ferrous materials should be used. This includes areas where flammable gases and highly volatile liquids are stored or used.

Power tools
Power tools include electric and pneumatic tools. The following general precautions should be observed whenever working with power tools:
• Never carry a tool by the cord or hose.
• Keep cords and hoses away from heat, oil, and sharp edges.
• Disconnect tools when not using them, before servicing and cleaning them, and when changing accessories such as blades, bits, and cutters.
• When possible, secure work with clamps or a vise, freeing both hands to operate the tool.
• To avoid accidental starting, do not hold fingers on the switch button while carrying a plugged-in tool.
• Follow instructions on the user's manual for lubricating and changing accessories.
• Be sure to keep good footing and maintain good balance when operating power tools.
• Wear proper apparel for the task. Loose clothing, ties, or jewelry can become caught in moving parts.

Safety guards must never be removed when a tool is being used. Although sometimes a bit of an inconvenience, removing a guard can introduce many dangers to the job task.

Electric tools
The most serious hazards associated with electric tools are electrical burns and shock. Shock can lead to injuries or even heart failure. Under certain conditions, even a small amount of electric current can result in heart fibrillation and death. An electric shock can also cause the user to fall off of a ladder or other elevated work surface and be injured due to the fall.

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