Power Tool Safety Series – General Safety

According to the HSE, nearly half of recorded accidents involving power tools resulted from a mistake made by the operator, or an unsafe system of work, that could have been avoided if a regulated health and safety policy was followed.

Power tools are found on almost all construction sites and even in many homes, and they’re great! They make tedious work much quicker, less physical and require less effort, however with all of these impressive benefits also comes serious risk.

It’s in the name – power tools are powerful. And when an accident happens, it’s usually quite serious.

Although each workplace differs when it comes to risk assessments and health and safety policies, we look at some of the most important points that are applicable to anyone using a power tool…

The Tool

You need to make sure that you are choosing a tool that is suitable for each job. Choosing the wrong tool may cause mechanical and electrical stress which males the piece of kit become unsafe.

Before use, you should check the power tool for any faults and defects and if found, you definitely shouldn’t use it. 

By keeping your power tools well maintained and looked after, as well as regular visual checks by the user, you’re able to identify any problems before they become very serious issues.

Tool Accessories

Most power tools use accessories to work effectively, such as blades, discs and drill bits.

Make sure that you are using the right accessories for each tool, and also in line with what task you are doing. For example, if you’re cutting through concrete, make sure you choose a blade that has this capability and not one designed for softer materials.

Choosing the wrong accessories can cause serious accidents if they burst or shatter, or by increased dust outputs. The potentially high vibration and noise levels can also pose a risk to the health and safety of the user.

The Environment 

Before carrying out any work with a power tool, always check that you’re in a suitable environment first.

Hazards such as dust, fumes, gas and lighting can restrict the use of a power tool and increase the level of risk to the operator.

Power tools should strictly not be used in any explosive environments, as any sparks may ignite dust or fumes. Especially if you are in a confided space, checking the atmosphere before usage is always recommended.

It’s the same as water entering the power tool. You all know the danger that this poses. Power tools should be kept away from water and wet conditions at all times to reduce the risk of electric shocks. 

Poorly lit areas are also a factor that needs to be assessed before using your power tool. If you’re visibility is impaired, you are much more likely to make mistakes or contact with rotating parts. 

The Battery

Now battery-operated equipment is usually much safer than mains powered, but there are still a few things to look out for to make sure you completely eliminate the safety risks.

You should really only change your battery with the charger that comes supplied direct from the manufacturer, to reduce the risk of any potential fire hazard. And whilst doing so, keep the battery packs away from metal objects that could make a connection between the terminal and short the battery.

It’s rare, but in some abusive conditions, the battery may spill a harmful liquid, which you should avoid contact with as it may cause irritation or burns.

Electricity

One of the major concerns around power tools is electricity. 

Electricity can kill, and even smaller shocks can cause life changing injuries.

Simple visual checks can be enough to identify if any of your electrical tools have become damaged or unsafe to use. Look for signs that your power tool is overheating, such as burn marks, stains and scorching.

Personal Safety

Human error is one of the main causes of power tool accidents. 


If you operate a power tool, you need to pay close attention and concentration at all times. Don’t use these tools when you’re feeling tired or under the influence of alcohol as your reaction times will be considerably slower and a lapse in concentration can result in serious injuries. 

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

This acts as your last defence against a power tool injury.

By wearing PPE, you can protect yourself from specific hazards that power tools pose, such as dust exposure and sparks flying off.

The most common PPE are safety goggles, dust masks, gloves, hard hats and safety boots – these should be worn where appropriate to reduce the risk of harm.

You could also try noise cancelling headphones if you know the job will have high levels of noise to protect your ears… or just to avoid a headache! 

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