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Hand Tool Safety Protects Artists from Injury

Mar 2, 2008
Since childhood, many have discovered the joy of creation through art. Working with the various materials is an exciting and creative venture for many artists. However, research has shown that an artist's craft has the potential to adversely affect his/her health. Art materials and supplies, improperly used, can cause physical injury.

A fundamental aspect of many art businesses and institutions is the hand tool. While indispensable to the artist, hand tools are also involved in many injuries to artists. According to Accident Facts, hand tools are involved in 6 percent of all compensated work injuries. This figure increases to 14 percent for non-compensated work injuries. Average hand tool injury costs can run approximately $1250 - this is only counting the direct costs and not the indirect injury costs such as lost production.

Hand tool injuries can most often be traced to the improper use or maintenance of the hand tool. Ways to avoid non-powered hand tool injuries include:

1. Make sure to use the right tool for the job. Examples of misuse of tools include using a wrench as a hammer, pliers as a wrench, knife as a saw, claw hammer as a ballpeen hammer, screwdriver as a chisel, etc.
2. Ensure you have the correct size tool.
3. Individuals using tools should be trained in basic safety and proper use of the tool.
4. Artists must keep their tools in good condition. Broken or worn tools should be repaired or discarded. Report defective equipment to the necessary supervisor, if applicable.
5. Use your tool the way it was intended. For instance, drive a wood chisel outward and away from your body.
6. When using a safety knife or utility knife, cut away from the body and keep hands and body clear of the knife stroke.
7. Razor blades and utility knife blades should be disposed of in a puncture-resistant container.
8. Store tools in a safe place. Many accidents have been caused by tools falling from overhead, sharp tools carried in pockets, or tools left in toolboxes with the cutting edges exposed. Ensure the tool is stored in its proper place and that sharp edges or blades are protected or enclosed to prevent contact.
9. Hand tools such as chisels and punches must be reconditioned or replaced as necessary.
10. Keep tool cutting edges sharp so the tool will move smoothly without binding or skipping. Dull tools can be more hazardous than sharp tools.
11. Wear other personal protective equipment such as safety glasses, respirators, appropriate shoes, gloves, etc.
12. Consider ergonomically designed tools to fit the tool to the worker - especially those tools used frequently and repetitively during the day.
The work of many artists, such as potters, glassblowers weavers, involves repetitive motion. Repetitive motion, particularly of the hands, wrists and arms may lead to painful inflammation of muscles, tendons, and nerves over time and cause eventual deterioration of those tissues. Symptoms associated with repetitive-motion disorders can include pain, warmth, swelling, and difficulty moving the joint involved. Grip positions that use high-force finger pinching along with a bent wrist have been associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.

Hand polishing and sanding, and drawing and painting in awkward positions are examples of high-risk repetitive tasks. Repetitive motion disorders can be disabling if not treated early.

To prevent these injuries, select appropriate tools and lay work out in more neutral positions while performing tasks. It's also a good idea to take frequent breaks to stretch muscles and schedule work to alternate tasks.

Back injuries often occur from lifting heavy objects such as sculptures and lithography stones. Whenever possible, use mechanical aides such as hoists and dollies to move heavy objects. Artists should always practice good lifting techniques including flexing knees, keeping the back straight, hold the load close to the body, and lifting with the legs. Artists should never lift and twist at the same time.
About the Author
Safecutters Inc., provides an online store of utility knife box cutters for opening shipping boxes and shipping packages, as well as safety knives to open moving boxes and packages. For more information about Klever Kutter and other Safecutters products contact us!
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