Not So Lethal Weapons
Common sense for power tool safety
By Michelle Garetson
While I don't doubt Mel Gibson's prowess as an actor, I would be leery of casting him in a power tool safety video after watching the pneumatic nail gun scene in Lethal Weapon.
Though creative usage of power tools may be entertaining to see on the screen, it's no laughing matter when fingers or eyes are damaged or lives are lost on the shop floor as a result of dangerous practices. A thorough knowledge of equipment and shop safety procedures should be stressed to all employees. Whether the tools are battery-powered, electrical, or pneumatic; certain precautions and attitudes need to be taken before clicking on the switch.
Where to start? Manufacturers and distributors offer training for specific tools regarding unique safety features, but also have information for overall safety in the workplace. Many of their seminars include addressing the environments in which the tools will be used. Proper lighting and electrical outlets, work bench heights, and clean, dry floors all add to a safer environment for workers. (Please see sidebar on pg. 66 for more safety information sources).
Thou shalt not train in vain
Not every power tool requires extensive utility training before use, but tools such as air impact tools or those with unique ergonomic features should warrant some introductory tuition. All equipment includes, or should include, instructions and safety suggestions from the manufacturer. Those people wishing to just hit the highlights of the instructions and figure out the rest later are not doing themselves any favors — the "trial and error" method is no way to learn the capabilities of a power tool! A few minutes taken to review safety procedures could mean the difference between keeping your livelihood and keeping your life.
"Most often, safety training is conducted in-house by the company that bought the equipment," says Joe Spry, marketing manager for Sears Industrial Sales in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. "Our account managers can arrange for the source (equipment manufacturer) to come into the facility to offer training, and most of the time, this training is done for air impact tools. It's important to stress understanding the tool's use and especially its limitations. You don't want or need a high impact wrench for tightening something that a nut runner would be better suited for."
Andy Mandell, assistant marketing manager for Dynabrade Inc. in Clarence, New York, adds that their salespeople and/or tech services personnel offer safety presentations to distributors as well as to the end user.
"Safety is definitely stressed during these seminars," says Mandell. "First, the safety features of the particular tool are discussed, then the safety of the environment in which the tool will be used."
While it is everyone's responsibility to understand safety procedures in the shop, it is crucial that management charge themselves to continually stress safety in the workplace and keep employees in tune through proper and timely training.
Preparing the work place—physically and mentally
Minimizing distractions in the work area goes a long way toward safeguarding employees. While management can take care of removing the physical obstructions and the posting of proper signage in the work area, employees need to realize their own responsibilities and limitations. Recommended or mandated personal protection gear such as face shields, eye, ear, hand, and foot protection should be worn; whereas, loose clothing, jewelry, and watches should not be worn when using power tools. AMT has some eagle eye readers who have caught us in the past featuring photos with technicians wearing rings or watches, or not wearing proper safety gear for the job. We thank you for your attentiveness and ask that you keep up the good work for the safety of your peers.
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