Most Americans live in or grew up in a home that was built and maintained with conventional hand tools, the most common of which was a claw hammer. Instead of using tools powered largely by muscle and sweat, today homeowners use time-saving tools powered by internal combustion engines, compressed air, electricity, compressed gas and gunpowder.
Each of these power sources presents increased potential for injury due to explosive fuels, rotating shafts, high-speed blades, flying chips, hot surfaces and fasteners that are deployed with great force and velocity. Workers and homeowners suffer injuries while using tools that can be purchased at any home improvement, hardware or department store. Injuries from hand tools, lawn and garden tools and power tools result in nearly 500,000 emergency room visits each year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Tools responsible for the highest number of ER visits annually include:
- Workshop manual tools – 136,300
- Lawn and garden equipment – 86,250
- Lawn mowers – 83,500
- Power home workshop saws – 81,350
- Hand garden tools – 44,000
- Chain Saws – 30,500
- Powered home tools (excluding saws) – 26,000
If you work with power tools at home, you can protect yourself and your family by taking some simple precautions:
Wear protective equipment. Using appropriate work clothing, footwear and personal protective equipment, such as eye protection, is the best way to prevent injury. Instruction manuals typically state the recommended type of personal protective equipment.
Keep children and pets away from work areas. Make sure you have someone designated to provide supervision so that you are not distracted and can focus on your project. Keep project areas clean and uncluttered. Barricade the area if you are able and be mindful of flying dust and debris.
Don’t circumvent safety measures. While it may be convenient to remove guards and defeat engine-stop or double-action switches, too often this results in a trip to the emergency room.
Read the instructions. The instruction manuals that come with the tool or equipment are the best source of information. Keep them in an accessible area for ready reference.
Maintain your tools. Sharp blades cut most effectively and put less strain and wear on belts, shafts, chains and other parts. Regular and proper maintenance prolongs the life of the tool and the user. If you buy a used tool or borrow a tool, the manufacturer’s website should have the needed information on care and use.
Inspect and store tools properly. Follow all pre-use check and inspection guidelines as well as storage, fueling and starting best practices. Mail in the product registration card to stay informed of any recalls. You can also check recall notices posted in home improvement stores, on manufacturers’ websites and on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.
Learn how to use tools correctly. We often learn best by doing. Seek advice from tradespeople, or take one of the classes offered at home improvement stores. Pass on the knowledge. If you give or loan a tool, provide the operating instructions and safety guidelines along with the necessary safety gear. Make sure the recipient demonstrates to you an appropriate level of knowledge and skill as well as understanding and respect for the hazards before entrusting them with any tool or piece of equipment.
More information is available from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation hand tool guidelines.
This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. Your local, independent insurance agent can advise you on liability coverages and additional loss control measures.