Hand Tools Safety – Hazards & Precautions

Construction By Matthew Coombes

Hand tools are relatively low risk when compared to power tools, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less when you miss the nail properly, giving your thumb or finger a wallop with a hammer, because let’s face it, there’s actually no one but yourself to blame.

But what are the hazards and precautions surrounding hand tools?

Hazards related to the equipment

A hand tool is any tool which is not powered by hand as opposed to a motor. This includes your usual hammers, screwdrivers, saws, wrenches, pliers, cutters, clamps, drills, knives, spades, axes and so on.

One of the hazards that you should consider is the nature of the equipment itself. Is it bladed or sharp like a knife, drawknife or shears, or is it less obviously bladed like a spade? Is it blunt and solid like a hammer? Is it heavy or able to crush like a sledgehammer or a vice/clamp? Are there mechanical parts which could pinch or trap skin, fingers or body parts like the inside of a pair of pliers?

From there you can identify if you need to take extra precautions or just wear personal protective equipment. A great example of this is that woodworkers often use a drawknife to take layers off wood. As the name suggests, the drawknife is drawn towards you and has a sharp knife-like blade. Many woodworkers wear leather or thick aprons because if the drawknife was to slip from the wood while being drawn towards the user, it could come into contact with them and cut them.

Wearing proper boots is a great way to make sure that you or someone else don’t accidentally lop off your toe with a spade, shears or secateurs.

Buy cheap buy twice

There are very few exceptions to the rule of ‘buy cheap, buy twice’. With some tools such as steel claw or ballpeen hammers, all you’re really buying is a shaped lump of metal, so it’s often hard to go wrong. However, bladed tools with poor handles can become a hazard if the plastic begins to crack and stops you being able to use the tool as intended.

Task related hazards

Always make sure that you have the right tool for the job, then look at the job itself. Is the task you’re looking to conduct particularly hazardous?

Using a sledgehammer against a wall is very fun, but also can send bits of debris flying towards you or others. No one wants bits of plaster or wood flying at them.
Additionally, how is the equipment going to be used?

If you’re striking a nail with a hammer and miss, it’s going to hurt. While it’s not very likely to cause you significant injury, and most the time simply swearing and shaking your hand a bit will solve the issue, why bother causing yourself the pain? Just pick up a pair of padded gloves or use a glass hammer instead.

Environmental hazards

Sometimes the hazard isn’t from the use of hand tools itself, but from the environment in which they are being used. The most recognisable example of this is using metal tools around electricity. Metals are conductive of electricity and jamming a metal screwdriver without a rubber guarding into an electrical outlet is a pretty sure-fire way of giving yourself a shock, or even meeting your creator.

The main hazard of using hand tools

OTHER PEOPLE. One of the easiest ways to reduce risk to yourself and others when using hand tools is to keep other people away from the work area. There’s no need for your dog or cat to be around while you’re working on your project and while I’m sure that they provide great moral support, they can be distracting – and the same goes for children.

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