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Using hand and power tools safely

Using hand tools incorrectly – or tools that are not fit for purpose or not suited to the person using them have resulted in many injuries at construction workplaces. Sometimes it’s as insignificant as a minor cut or scrape, but can also be much more serious such as a deep laceration, or joint and tissue injury. Before starting the work activity check that you have the right tool for the job. It’s important to consider the design and condition of tools as well - if it’s too heavy or awkward to hold it can make discomfort greater and lead to more serious symptoms or other injuries.

The majority of serious incidents however occur mainly due to improper power tool use involving common tools such as nail guns, circular saws, compound mitre saws, and grinders. If not used correctly, these tools can be extremely hazardous and have the potential to cause severe life changing injuries such as loss of sight from being struck in the eye by dust and projectiles, loss of movement or amputations from deep lacerations to bone and tendons after coming into contact with moving parts (saw blade), and hearing loss from prolonged or sudden high exposure to noisy tools. 

How to protect yourself and others:

  • If one is provided, read the operators manual prior to use
  • Plan and risk assess how you’re going to do the work before you start including what you’ll do if something does go wrong
  • Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment for the job i.e. eye protection (goggles/face shields to protect eyes from flying particles and dust), ear muffs to protect ears from noise damage, gloves etc
  • Reduce effects of muscle fatigue by working in a way that is comfortable and not in a restricted or awkward position
  • Avoid working in positions where your arms are above shoulder height or tools are held for extended periods without proper rest breaks or task rotation
  • Ensure the tool is in good working condition and has been appropriately maintained, electrically safe (‘tested & tagged’), and fit for purpose
  • Make sure safety guards are in place and keep your hands and feet away from any moving parts
  • Keep the material being worked on secured and make sure you only operate the tool in a well-lit area
  • If you haven’t received adequate explanation, guidance, direction or training in the tool you’re required to use, don’t use it – always raise this with your supervisor or HIA Field Officer immediately

To find out more, contact HIA's Building Services team.

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