By Jason, from RiskAtMedia:
All work activities carry the potential to cause harm to our own and others’ health and well-being, but we sometimes forget how real and close to us these hazards are. Every year, a large number of people are killed at work, and an even greater number of people suffer work related injuries because they are unable to follow safe working practices. There are particular hazards associated with the use of powered tools, some of these hazards accompany almost all types of work activity, such as manual handling and slips and trips. Others are of particular concern to powered tool operators and we will consider these in this Power Tool Safety brief.
Manual handling related activities are a major cause of occupational injury. Low back pain, joint injuries and repetitive strain injuries of various sorts, affect over a million people each year, and many of these injuries are the result of manual handling. Prior to carrying out any unavoidable manual handling activity you should help to protect yourself from injury by following good manual handling practices. Consider the task to be carried out and the nature of the load, and be aware of your own capabilities and the environment in which you are working. In particular, tools and work pieces can be extremely heavy and you should give consideration to safe manual handling practices before undertaking any job that involves lifting these items.
Slips, Trips and Falls
Slips, trips and falls represent a significant cause of work related injury. Slips and trips can result from contamination, obstacles, inappropriate footwear, reduced visibility, the environment and people’s attitudes. Good workmanship and good housekeeping are practices that can help to prevent accidents and fires. By removing debris, swarf, packaging and other waste materials to waste skips you can contribute significantly to good housekeeping. You can also reduce the risk of slips and trips by properly routing any cables or air hoses that you use, by appropriately storing materials, tools and other equipment and keeping walkways clear, by ensuring that you always wear appropriate shoes and by taking responsibility for your own and your colleagues safety and appropriately containing any spills that you might discover.
Contact with moving or rotating power tools is a significant hazard to personnel using power tools, as well as to personnel working close by, and can result in serious injury. All personnel need appropriate training and experience to be able to use work equipment safely. Never use any work equipment unless you have received suitable training and are qualified and competent to do so. Before you begin to use a powered tool, make sure that you have read the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Study the tool to make sure that you know which parts of the tool move, which parts are stationary and which parts are sharp. Make sure that all guards are in place. Where appropriate, remember to securely clamp tools or work pieces. And ensure that you only use tools for the job they were intended to perform, as this can significantly reduce the risk of injury. To protect others from the risk of contact with the moving or rotating powered tool parts, make sure any necessary warning signs and barriers are in place before you begin work. You should also take care if you need to walk through or work in an area adjacent to where another person is using powered tools.
Electric shock from powered tools can result in death or severe burns. Additionally, serious injury can result if the operator falls against a powered tool as a result of the shock. To prevent the risks posed by electrical hazards, all electric powered tools should carry a valid test certificate or label. Testing should be carried out by suitably trained individuals. If an electric powered tool does not carry a valid test label, it should not be used and you should inform your supervisor.
You should also carry out a visual pre-use inspection of all tools to ensure that they remain undamaged. If you do discover a defect, please do not use the tool and report the problem to your supervisor. Never attempt to make temporary repairs to a tool. You should also observe the tool while it is in use for possible signs of malfunction. If you notice that the tool is vibrating abnormally, doesn’t sound right, or is displaying signs of any other problem, switch it off and report to your supervisor. When using an impact wrench, only sockets specifically designed for use with impact wrenches should be used and you should carry out a daily pre-use inspection of the socket to ensure that it is undamaged. Never use sockets designed for hand ratchets on an impact wrench.
Ensuring that equipment is appropriately cleaned and maintained is also central to safety. Clean tools after each use, as a dirty tool is unsafe and is difficult to use. When you carry out maintenance, make sure that the equipment is isolated and cannot be turned on accidentally. Ensure swarf has cooled before using gloves and a brush to remove it and clean the tool. If you need to remove swarf from a running powered tool to prevent long strands developing, make sure that you are not wearing gloves and use a rod to remove the swarf. Never use a rag to clean a tool while it is running and never use compressed air to clean a tool.
When using powered tools, wear close fitting garments, do not wear a tie or jewellery and tie back long hair and long beards to reduce the risk of entanglement.
Personal Protective Equipment PPE
Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, is an important means of reducing the risks associated with projectile particles produced when using powered tools. At least standard PPE with safety glasses should be worn. It may be necessary to screen the work area if projectile particles pose a hazard to individuals working or passing nearby. Only PPE in good working condition will reduce the hazards associated with your work, so it is important to remove, clean and store your PPE correctly.
Noise at Work
Hearing loss caused by exposure to noise at work is a significant source of occupational disease, with many people suffering deafness, tinnitus or other ear conditions as a result of exposure to excessive noise levels at work. The level of noise and how long people are exposed to noise at work both contribute to potential hearing damage. Noise can be reduced to harmless levels by wearing industiral ear plugs and ear defenders. These items of PPE should therefore always be worn while using impact wrenches, and should also be worn when using other powered tools unless local measurements indicate that noise levels are below the level at which such action is necessary. Controls should also be considered for individuals working in close proximity.
Human factors also play a role in increasing the risk of injury while using powered tools. Never come to work in possession of, or under the influence of, alcohol or drugs. These substances expose everyone to risks that are unnecessary and easily avoided. You should also not use powered tools if you are overly tired or unwell, as concentration is important to using tools safely.
Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome HAVS
If you regularly use powered tools, you may be at risk of developing Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome or HAVS. This condition involves damage to the blood vessels, nerves and joints of the hand, wrist and arm. It is a painful and debilitating condition, resulting in numbness of the hands to the extent where it is impossible to feel with your fingers and very difficult for you to pick up small objects. This can make both occupational and leisure activities, such as playing darts, fishing or DIY, impossible. HAVS is entirely preventable. Always use the right tool for the job, as this will allow you to complete the job more quickly and will expose you to less hand-arm vibration. Carry out a pre-use inspection of all hand held equipment and report any damage to your supervisor, as faults and general wear may result in increased vibration. If you do experience abnormal vibration from hand held equipment, please report this immediately. Try to reduce the amount of vibration you are exposed to in one go by doing other jobs in between. Use a relaxed grip and avoid using excessive force on a tool or work piece. Store tools so that they do not have very cold handles when used next. Keep your hands warm and dry and take breaks to exercise your fingers regularly. Wear gloves when using impact wrenches to reduce the effect of vibration.
Compressed air is a safe and reliable alternative to electricity for powering impact wrenches and other air powered tools, but it can be dangerous if it is not used responsibly. In particular, contact with streams of compressed air can penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream. All compressed air plant should be appropriately inspected and certified to ensure that it is safe to use. Never operate air compressors at faster speeds than the manufacturer’s recommendation and ensure that the air intake is from a clean, outside and fresh air source, with screens and filters used to clean the air if necessary. Unless your tool has a quick disconnect plug, you should always turn off the air supply at the control valve and bleed the tool before disconnecting. You should never compress, bend or kink air hoses and you should never carry an impact wrench or other tool by the air hose. And never use compressed air to clean your clothes or yourself.
In the event of an emergency, isolate any equipment that you have been using and evacuate the area according to the site emergency procedures. If you are involved in an accident, seek immediate assistance.
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