Working Safely with Power Tools

Power tools are a great way of getting a job done, but accidents do happen, especially when users don’t follow the basic safety rules. Power tools present a greater risk than hand tools, because they are faster and more powerful. Of course, unlike hand tools, power tools also run on electricity – something else that can go wrong in a dangerous way when tools are not handled properly.  This is why it’s important to brush up on the specific safety rules of working with power tools in general and the particular device you are going to be working with, before starting any job or project. While the guide below will give you generic safety rules and best practices for working with power tools, it’s no substitute for reading each particular power tool’s safe operating instructions. After all, you cannot dispute the fact that operating a chainsaw is very different to operating a power drill, even though many safety rules apply to both.

Wear protective gear

Protective eyewear such as goggles or glasses is important not only for the person operating the tool, but also for everyone in the vicinity. The last thing you need when operating a dangerous tool is for something to fly into your eye, but you also want to avoid hurting anyone else. With some power tools, you may need to wear a full face shield, rather than just goggles.

Standard work gloves offer no protection when working with fast moving blades. You can get gloves to improve your grip and decrease vibrations associated with certain power tools, but the only safe way to handle power tools is to ensure your hands are kept well away from the dangerous part of the tool.

On the other hand, safety footwear is highly recommended when working with power tools. Steel toe caps will protect you from any falling tools and insulated soles can protect you from electricity.

If you are working with loud tools, ear protection is also recommended.

Working practices

  • Make sure you are well acquainted with the manufacturer’s operating instructions before picking up the tool for the first time. We cannot stress this enough.
  • Before and after each job, inspect the tool thoroughly to make sure it’s operating correctly. You need to be sure nothing needs fixing or replacing, especially if you’re sharing the tool with someone else. You always want to make sure you leave the next person a safe tool to use. Don’t forget to inspect the cord and the plug, too.
  • If a tool is even slightly damaged, don’t use it. If something happens to the tool while you’re using it, put it down and do not pick it up again until it’s fixed.
  • Always make sure your tools are properly grounded to avoid risk of an electric shock.
  • Use each tool in the way it was designed to be used. This means using it for the particular task it was designed for, only using the right attachments for the job and using each tool at the speed it was meant to be operated at.
  • Make sure the tool is fitted with the right protective shield or guard, as per the manufacturer’s instructions before operating the tool.
  • Make sure the tool is unplugged and switched off before performing potentially dangerous tasks like changing blades.
  • Make sure tools are switched off before plugging them in. Keep your finger off the power button to prevent the tool from switching on unexpectedly.
  • Make sure you’re always standing on a solid surface when operating power tools. If you’re working at a height, make sure your ladder is secure. Move it if you have to, rather than overreach and risk injury.
  • Never operate power tools if you are compromised. While most workers know to avoid alcohol, drugs and medicines before operating power tools, many forget that being tired or distracted can also be dangerous. Make sure your mind is squarely on the job before operating dangerous tools.
  • Never hold a power tool by its cord.
  • Use a vice or clamps whenever possible to secure the items you’re working on. This will free up both your hands so that you can maintain better control over the tool.
  • When you’re done working, make sure tools are properly switched off, unplugged and stored securely.