UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls

Hand Tool Safety

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Hand tools are a fundamental aspect of many businesses and institutions.  However, hand tools are involved in many injuries to workers. For instance, according to Accident Facts , hand tools are involved in 6% of all compensated work injuries. This figures increases to 14% for non-compensated work injuries. The average cost of a hand tool injury is listed as $1250. This is only counting the direct costs and not the indirect injury costs (i.e. lost production).

Causes of hand tool injuries can often be traced to some type of improper use or maintenance of the hand tool. The below information focuses on non-powered hand tool safety.  Stay tuned in additionalSafety Notes for information on powered hands tool and other specific tool safety tips. Some ways to avoid hand tool injuries include:

  • Use the right tool for the job.  Some examples of misuse of tools are using a wrench as a hammer, pliers as a wrench, knife as a saw, claw hammer as a ballpeen hammer, screwdriver as a chisel, etc.
  • Ensure you have the correct size tool, such as correct screwdriver, pliers, wrench, scissor, etc.
  • Individuals using the tool should be trained in the basic safety and proper use of the tool.
  • Keep tools in good condition. Broken or worn tools (i.e. wrenches with cracked or worn jaw, electric tools with broken plugs, etc.) should be repaired or discarded immediately.Report defective equipment to your supervisor.
  • Use tools the way they were intended to be used (i.e. drive a wood chisel outward and away from your body). 
  • When using a knife, cut away from the body and keep hands and body clear of knife stroke. 
  • Be cautious of tools around electrical equipment. Only trained and qualified individuals may work on electrical equipment. 
  • Store tools in a safe place.  Many accidents have been caused by tools falling from overhead, and by sharp tools carried in pockets or left in toolboxes with the cutting edges exposed.  Ensure the tool is put away in the proper place after use and that sharp edges or blades are protected or enclosed to prevent contact.
  • Ensure tool handles are wedged tightly in the head of all tools.
  • Hand tools such as chisels and punches, which develop mushroomed heads during use, must be reconditioned or replaced as necessary.
  • Keep tool cutting edges sharp so the tool will move smoothly without binding or skipping. Dull tools can be more hazardous than sharp tools.
  • When using hand tools, maintain a good grip and stand in a balanced position to avoid sudden slips.
  • Wear gloves when necessary to protect your hands. However, be cautious of gloves and/or loose materials when using powered tools where they could get caught in a moving part.
  • Wear other personal protective equipment as warranted such as eye, face, and hearing protection, respirators, appropriate shoes, etc.
  • Keep wood handles free of splinters and cracks.
  • Wrenches should not be used if jaws are sprung or loose.
  • When using hand tools, ensure area around your work is clean, dry, well lit, and free of obstructions when possible. 
  • When using a screwdriver, do not hold an object in one hand and press a screwdriver into it, place it on a bench or a table.
  • Be cautious of spark producing hand tools when working near flammable materials. Use non-sparking tools when necessary.
  • Consider ergonomically designed tools to fit the tool to the worker. Especially those tools that are utilized frequently and repetitively during the day.
  • Inspect your tools before each job to ensure proper condition.

Remember to always utilize good judgment and work skills to reduce the risk of injuries when using hand tools. 

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Risk Management
Email: Connie Smith, MS
Phone: 715-425-3344
Fax: 715-425-4980
25H North Hall

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