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How To Use Hand Tools Safely

Aug 17, 2007
You know Uncle Will: the poster boy for Yankee Ingenuity. He's the guy who can solve any household problem with little more than a hammer and screwdriver.

One day Will used a screwdriver instead of a pry bar to rip boards off an old deck. When the screwdriver snapped under the strain, he fell and broke his two front teeth. That's genius?

There is a right way and a wrong way to use hand tools, but a lot of people don't seem to know it. In fact, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year more than 100,000 injuries require hospital treatment due to misuse of hand tools.

First Steps To A Quality Job

* Buy the best tool you can afford. Cheap tools are more likely to break, and more difficult to use. Buy several versions or sizes of the same tool to assure you have the right tool for the right job.

* Use a hand tool for the job it was manufactured to perform.

* Inspect tools for cracks, chips, mushrooming, and wear. Discard damaged tools promptly.

* Be sure handles are fixed firmly into a tool's working end.

* Plan your job before you start.

* Check for hidden hazards, e.g., electric wires in a wall.

* Shut the current off when working near electricity.

* Organize the tools in a toolbox.

* Position your body securely while working with the tool. Wear eye protection.

* Concentrate! No matter how trivial the task seems.

Striking And Struck Tools

* Wear safety goggles any time you're using one of these tools.

* A hammer head should be at least 3/8" larger in diameter than the striking surface of a chisel, punch, wedge or other struck tools.

* Strike a hammer with the face parallel to the surface being struck. Glancing, off-center blows can throw dangerous splinters into the air.

* Use the right hammer for the job.

* Do not use one hammer to strike another hammer or a hatchet.

* Never use a striking tool with a loose or damaged handle.

* Pull nails or pry wood away from your face.

* Sharpen struck tools before use. Aim the blow or cut away from your body.

Screwdrivers

* The blade tip should fit a slotted screw, without hanging over.

* For many jobs, you'll need to drill a hole first.

* Do not strike a screwdriver handle with a hammer. It could splinter and shatter.

* Never use the handle as a striking tool.

* Do not use them as pry bars, scrapers, lid removers, punches or chisels.

* Don't hold work in one hand while using a screwdriver in the other. If the blade slips, you could get hurt.

* Screws are designed to be driven with the proper type of screwdriver. If you fail to take the time to match the screw with the screwdriver, the tool's blade can slip out of the screw's slot, resulting in an injury.

* Use insulated screwdrivers when working around electricity, but also turn off the power.

Wrenches

* For better control, pull the wrench toward you; don't push it away from you. On high-torque jobs, stand firmly.

* Replace wrenches when the teeth become marred or worn.

* Do not substitute pliers for work a wrench should do.

* Never hammer with a wrench.

* Never put your face or head level with a wrench handle.

* Never use a handle extender while turning a wrench. Switch to a wrench with a longer handle or one designed to withstand more force. Homemade handle extenders can slip off and break.

* Use a box or socket wrench to free a tight or frozen nut.

* Make sure the wrench fits a nut or bolt exactly. Limit your use of adjustable wrenches.

Cordless Tools

* Read and thoroughly understand the instruction manual.

* Do not operate cordless tools in or near flammable liquids, or in explosive atmospheres.

* Keep the tool and the recharging unit in an area not accessible to children.

* Remove batteries or lock the switch in its "OFF" position before changing accessories, adjusting or cleaning the tool.

* When cutting, drilling or driving into walls, floors, or wherever live electrical wires may be encountered, hold the tool only by the insulated gripping surfaces.

* Do not touch the drill bit, blade or cutter immediately after operation. It may be extremely hot.
About the Author
John Myre is the author of the award-winning book, Live Safely in a Dangerous World, and the publisher of the Safety Times Reproducible Articles..
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