Many of us make a living from power tools. Some of us are lovers. And some in between. Whatever our reasons for using them, most of us would agree that power tools deserve our respect. Nothing exemplifies this more than accidental injuries. To help you stay on your toes, we'd like to outline the top 5 causes of power tool accidents.
There are many potential problems with power tools. The one you have has high RPM or high torque and probably has blades on it. Many bad things can happen if you are not paying attention. We believe that many construction site and workshop accidents are unnecessary. We've compiled a list to help you understand what to look out for, using our own personal experience as well as some in-depth research.
After all, accidents can only happen to one other person, right? That is, until it happens to you!
1. Remove the table saw blade guard
we know. We've all heard it. I can't tell you how many online reviews we've had on our table to see reviews containing something like "the first thing I'm going to do is rip off the blade guard!"
Yes, you are a tough guy.
However, here's the thing. I want to be completely clear on this…so please listen carefully. 100% of all blade contact injuries occur without a blade guard. You have to try really hard to cut yourself with the blade guard in place. Sawstop saw? Physical detection technology? If you're just holding the blade guard in place, you don't need any of this.
Having said that, some cuts require you to remove the blade guard due to clearance. In these situations you always want to use secondary safety tools such as putters and/or feather boards. Sometimes you can throw together a quick sacrificial jig to get the job done.
But don't just rip off that blade guard and think it won't happen to you. Of all the causes of power tool accidents, removing the guard on a table saw tops the list. I have personally witnessed two very close friends get to the blade and lose their fingertips from using the table saw incorrectly.
2. Trips and falls from ropes or messy workflows
Have you ever been to a store or website that looked dangerous? Do you own a shop or job site that looks dangerous? The stopgap measure of not cleaning up or moving a potential tripping hazard isn't worth the risk. Spend five minutes moving the rope, sweeping and tidying up. If it saves you, your employees or colleagues from an accident, it could save you countless hours of downtime – not to mention pain.
Beware of protruding Romex cords, loose extension cords, and other materials left in the open. You want to have clear pathways to get around the job site and eliminate things that could cause people to trip or trip. Tripping doesn't sound dangerous, unless it happens when you're carrying tools or heavy objects!
Of course, as more and more cordless power tools continue to replace corded tools, we expect fewer cord-related accidents. Still, you can find plenty of tripping hazards on a job site other than extension cords. Keeping an eye out will keep you and your crew safer.
3. Lack of cut protection
Sharp tools are great for tools, but bad for the skin. Avoiding cuts means having the right PPE, but also being mindful and respectful of the materials and tools you use.
Wear cut-resistant gloves when appropriate. In particular, you'll want to use these tools when working with sheet metal or a utility knife. A nice pair of cut-resistant gloves can be the difference between a small mistake on a workpiece and a trip to the emergency room.
A good pair of work boots is also essential for heavy duty work when stepping on sharp objects is possible. Look for puncture-resistant boots when working in nails and other potentially hazardous areas where the soles can penetrate. Toe and metatarsal protectors should be worn everywhere in case of a heavy fall that could crush or crush the foot.
Respect the moving blade. You want to wear closed-toe clothing when using edgers, trimmers, and lawn mowers. Also pay attention to other types of blades, such as those on circular, miter, and table saws.
4. Electric shock and arc
In our Electrical Wiring Safety Tips article, we discuss securing switches in the off position, locking service panels, and leaving notes to warn others when working on electrical circuits. But arcing from panels isn't the only cause of power tool accidents that electricians have to avoid.
You could suffer severe burns or even die from ignition of the explosive gas. When using any electrical equipment, be aware of your surroundings and report any unknown chemicals or materials you find nearby. Better to be safe than sorry. This also applies to using any power tool around flammable gases or liquids.
While most injuries involve some sort of high voltage or high current arc, smaller voltage surges can also hurt you. An electrician climbing up a ladder may experience a mild shock and react by losing his balance and falling. Always be aware of what might happen so you can plan for the worst.
Finally, corded power tools with exposed copper wires can deliver a shock, especially near water. Good tool maintenance is essential. This also includes noting any frays or potential shorts on the extension cord.
5. Insufficient eye and face protection
We'll let the pictures below speak for themselves. Protect your eyes and use a face shield whenever using abrasive cutting blades. This includes small angle grinders and large concrete saws. The ground blades on these tools may come apart. Because they operate at such high rotational speeds, the resulting chunks of material have the mass and velocity to cause serious damage.
While eye protection accounts for a large portion of these injuries, wearing goggles or a pair of safety glasses while working with a grinder won't do the rest of your face any favors. At 10,000+ RPM, a grinder can cause serious injury when the cutting wheel flies off. A face shield is required to mitigate damage that could result from such accessory failure.
6. Inability to stabilize oneself in high places
The number one cause of worker injury on a job site is fall hazards. You can also add incorrect ladder usage for this. In either case, relevant issues include using tools when there is a high degree of instability. You really don't want to worry about dropping your power tool and keeping yourself from falling at the same time.
Take fall safety seriously. Staying compliant doesn't really take much effort. You may need to purchase a safety harness and some fall arrest equipment. You may need to learn how and when to build temporary railings for certain structures and jobs. It saves you from worrying about dropping your power tools when you are using them in the air.
Of course, you also want to do a good job of personal balance. Do not reach for or use that tool until you are completely stable. You can avoid many situations simply by taking your time and preparing before you start nailing, hammering, drilling or cutting.
7. Not paying attention
Ask most people who have been injured on the job site (or in a shop) and you'll likely hear that they were distracted or not paying close attention. This happens to both inexperienced users and professionals who have been working for decades.
Familiarity with tools and techniques can distract you from the job at hand. You forget you're using a tool with a hacksaw blade spinning at 3,500 RPM. You lose focus on the fact that you are standing 20 feet in the air on a ladder with a tool in one hand. You're assuming someone turned off the breaker instead of verifying it with a meter.
Or, in my case, you could make a guy working on the roof next to you think it's cool to point the tip of the framing nailer toward you and tap it down not too lightly. When the nail shot out and jumped over the tile roof, I considered myself lucky that the nail also just jumped off my jeans instead of burying itself in my leg!
Not paying attention can get you hurt or worse. Try performing a "reset" every time you start work or pick up a tool. Remind yourself that you can't take things for granted. In short – pay attention!
8. Lack of humility
We add the last one because it affects a lot of things that happen at some point in the injury. Closely related to the items above, if you don't ask for help when you need it, you're showing a lack of humility. It comes when you start using tools without proper training. You can demonstrate a lack of humility by simply trying to "rush" to finish before or before someone else.
Or a lack of humility that simply shows up when we don't respect the power tools we use every day. We may be overconfident. These tools represent almost unbelievable cutting, sawing, grinding or driving capabilities. They deserve our respect.
We wear our pride as a badge of honor when we assume we won't get hurt…or that we can "blink fast enough" that we don't need goggles. In fact, it only hurts you. Ask anyone who has lost a few fingers or an eye to a tool-related accident.
wrap it up
This might not be the most inspiring topic and article we've ever had, but we hope it helps someone. We want you to be both productive and safe on the job site. This is not only possible, but ultimately likely to define you as a company or employer that takes the safety of its crew seriously.
In the end, we think it's more important than you realize.
If we missed anything in this article, feel free to leave a comment below. We'd love to hear about your experiences!