August Safety Spotlight: Tool Safety & Machine Guards
Did you know improper machine guarding is among the top 10 citations issued by OSHA? Neumann Brothers’ Safety Manager, James Machamer, shares how we can reduce the risks associated with tools, machines, and equipment on the job site.
Manufacturers design their tools and machines and tools to protect operators from coming into contact with hazardous parts. Machine guards are one of the most common strategies manufacturers use to make their equipment safer.
Missing and misplaced guards are dangerous for individuals working directly with the equipment and those working close to the tools and machines. Every year, machines cause more than 18,000 injuries, including amputations, lacerations, and crushing injuries. Power tool injuries result in approximately 400,000 emergency room visits (including work and non-work-related incidents), and more than 22,000 power tool accidents involve nail guns.
Many of these injuries result from an unsafe operation–i.e., using a tool for its unintended purpose. A large percentage of these injuries, however, is due to removing the guard or bypassing the safety system.
On every Neumann job site, we require employees follow all manufacturer recommendations. As an added precaution, our team solely uses Saw Stop® saws. This brand of saw stops when the blade encounters electrically conductive materials. Neumann also mandates a guard to be used at all times.
Check out these safety tips for working with tools and machines:
- Inspect your tools. Never issue or use a damaged or defective tool. Always inspect tools before and after every use to ensure they are in good working order. Check for cracked or loose handles and make sure all guards, safety switches, electrical, and hoses are in good condition. Tag any damaged tools and remove them from use until repaired.
- Select the right tool. It’s important to always use the correct tool for the task. For example, don’t use a screwdriver as a pry bar or chisel. Always select the correct bits, blades, and accessories. If you don’t have the right tool, don’t get creative! Using the wrong tool can lead to injury.
- Wear your PPE. Issue your employees’ personal protective equipment (PPE) and ensure they wear them correctly. PPE includes safety goggles, face masks, ear plugs, hard hats, and work gloves. Avoid wearing loose clothing or jewelry that could impede your work or get caught in moving parts on power tools.
- Don’t alter your tools. Never remove guards or disable safety devices on power tools. Don’t paint or cover up tools, as this could camouflage dangerous chips or cracks. If a tool is damaged or broken, don’t attempt to make an “on the spot” if the right parts or tools are unavailable. (Duct tape is not the answer!)
- Handle with care. Tools are not toys. Never throw or toss a tool in the direction of a coworker. Don’t use electrical cords to lower or lift a tool to a workspace. Always carry tools in a toolbox or on a tool belt. Never shove a tool in your pocket when walking around. Keep your finger off the trigger of power tools to avoid accidental discharge.
- Keep your distance. Allow enough room to safely operate the tool without contacting other objects or coworkers. When working at a different height, ensure no one is below you if you drop a tool. When using a nail gun, check that everyone is clear of your line of sight in case of an accidental discharge or misfire.
- Pick up after yourself. Don’t leave unused tools lying around the job site. They can create tripping hazards or accidentally fall on someone. Establish a check-out and check-in process for company-owned devices to avoid accidents and to keep tools from mysteriously walking off the job site.
- Unplug and disconnect. Always unplug tools when not in use. Don’t leave electric power tools plugged in when replacing blades or bits—disconnect pneumatic tools from the air line when loading fasteners. Always unplug and disconnect when moving the equipment to a new location.
- Keep your workspace clean. A cluttered floor can lead to accidental trips or falls which can be extremely dangerous when working with hand and power tools. Avoid working in wet conditions when working with electric power tools. Keep power cords and air lines out of the way to avoid tangling or tripping a coworker.
- Ensure proper training. All employees must be trained on the appropriate use of hand and power tools. They must know how to safely operate the tools required for the job, including knowing which PPE to wear.
Work Smart. Be Safe! Check out the links below for more information on tool and machine safety.