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Hand tools deserve respect for safety sake

Hand tools are extensions of our hands. When we misuse our hands, we experience pain. When we misuse hand tools, the possibility of injury to ourselves or people working around us increases considerably. Furthermore, using a tool incorrectly can damage the tool or even cause the tool to fail. Here are some guidelines for hand tool safety.

Use the Right Tool for the Job

Using the correct tool for the job is the first step in safe hand tool use. Tools are designed for specific needs. That’s why you’ll find screwdrivers with various lengths and tip styles and pliers with different head shapes. Using any tool inappropriately is a step in the wrong direction. To avoid personal injury and tool damage, select the proper tool to do the job well and safely.

Quality professional hand tools will last many years if they are taken care of and treated with respect. Manufacturers design tools for specific applications. If you use your screwdriver as a chisel or a pry bar, you can’t expect it to be in good shape when you actually need to drive a screw. Use tools only for their intended purpose.

Use Insulated Tools When Needed

Many jobs require the use of insulated tools. Hand tools are often used in combination with lockout tag systems to ensure that the circuits are not live. Most maintenance technicians claim they never work a job “hot.” But, what happens when a computer is on the circuit and it can’t be shut down, or when medical equipment is connected to the circuit? You never know when a situation will arise where insulated tools are required. All professionals need to have some insulated tools in their collection.

Insulated hand tools must be clearly marked with the official, international 1,000-volt rating symbol. They also must meet IEC 60900 and ASTM F1505 standards. Every insulated tool is tested at 10,000 volts to receive a 1,000-volt rating. These tools are designed to reduce the chance of injury if the tool should make contact with an energized source. Make note, tools with plastic-dipped or slip-on plastic handles are not insulated. Those features are for comfort only. Likewise, wrapping a tool with electric tape does not provide insulation.

Inspect insulated tools frequently. Watch for any wear or cracking of the insulation. Keep them clean, dry, and free of surface contaminants, which can compromise their insulating properties. If the dielectric insulation has been breached by cutting, wear, or a burn, the tool should be taken out of service to ensure safety.

Follow General Safety and Maintenance Practices

Safe tool use contributes to a safer, more efficient work environment. Misusing automotive tools is not only dangerous, it shows a lack of understanding of tool safety and a lack of respect for those around you. Also, if improper tool use causes an accident, downtime will impact the entire job.

Always wear approved eye protection when using hand tools. Metal will fly when it is cut. Safety glasses protect your eyes and prevent serious injury. Other workers in the vicinity should wear eye protection, as well.

Keep cutting tools sharp, lubricated, and in good repair. This applies to knives, bolt cutters, cable cutters, many types of pliers, and all other cutting tool sets.

When cutting wire, bolts, and similar materials, cuts should be made at a 90-degree angle to the work to avoid chipping the edges of the knives. Pliers should not be wiggled or rocked as you attempt to cut material, as this puts tremendous side pressure on the cutting surfaces and can result in the failure of the cutting knives.

Most accidents happen because one or more safe operating procedures were not followed. History usually tells us what we did right or wrong and how that affected our job performance. The old saying “Do it right the first time” applies to using hand tools safely. This includes staying up-to-date on safety techniques and following safe practices in the work place. Professionals shouldn’t need second chances, because professionals do the job right the first time.

Use Well-Designed, High-Quality Tools

Finally, investing in high-quality tools makes the professional’s job safer and easier.

If extra leverage is needed, use high-leverage pliers, which give more cutting and gripping power than standard pliers. This helps, in particular, when making repetitive cuts or twisting numerous wire pairs.

Knurled jaws provide sure-gripping action when pulling or twisting wires.

Some side-cutting and diagonal-cutting pliers are designed for heavy-duty cutting. When cutting ACSR, screws, nails and hardened wire, only use pliers that are recommended for that use.

Pliers with hot riveting at the joint ensure smooth movement across the full action range of the pliers, which reduces handle wobble, resulting in a positive cut. The knives align perfectly every time.

Induction hardening on the cutting knives adds to long life, so the pliers cut cleanly day after day.

Sharp cutting knives and tempered handles also contribute to cutting ease.

Some pliers are designed to perform special functions. For example, some high-leverage pliers have features that allow crimping connectors and pulling fish tapes.

Tool handles and power tools and accessory with dual-molded material allow for a softer, more comfortable grip on the outer surface and a harder, more durable grip on the inner surface and handle ends.

Well-designed tools often include a contoured thumb area for a firmer grip or color-coded handles for easy tool identification.

Insulated cordless tools reduce the chance of injury where the tool may make contact with an energized source.

Well-designed tools are a pleasure to use. They save time, give professional results and help you do your job more safely.

This article has covered the importance of using hand power tools safely and treating them with respect. Always remember, safety is essential to good job performance. Pay attention to what’s going on around you, be flexible, and adapt to changing conditions. Think before you react, and keep your head in the game.

Think about tool safety each and every time you begin a job, and you’ll perform your job safely and effectively. Those are your hands that are being extended by the pliers or the screwdriver. Treat your tools as carefully as you treat your hands.