Safety with Portable Electric-Powered Tools

Failing to properly use and maintain electric-powered tools causes thousands of cuts, punctures, pinches, amputations, and electrocutions each year. Tools can seriously injure or kill the user if not properly maintained and used. Everyone who uses tools must learn to recognize the hazards associated with the different types of tools and the safety precautions necessary to prevent accidents while using them. OSHA has specific rules for using electric-powered tools. Following the guidelines, along with using your own good judgement will help keep you safe. 

Before You Use a Tool: 

  • Verify that it bears an electrical test label to indicate it successfully passed the inspection and tests for electrical safety within the past 6 months. 

  • Know the application, limitation, and potential hazards of the tool. Operate according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

  • Inspect the cord for the proper type. Electric-powered tools must either have a three-wire cord with a ground or be double insulated. Never use a plug that has its ground prong removed.  

  • Inspect the tool for frayed cords, loose or broken switches, and other obvious problems. Tools that fail this inspection must not be used. These must be removed form service and labeled – DO NOT USE—until repairs are made. 

When Using a Tool: 

  • Do not use electric power tools in wet/damp places. 

  • Keep guards in place, in working order, and properly adjusted. Safety guards must never be removed when the tool is being used. 

  • Avoid accidental starting. Do not hold a finger on the starting switch or trigger while carrying a plugged-in tool. 

  • Safety switches must be kept in working order and must not be modified. If you feel it necessary to modify a safety switch for a job your doing, use another tool. 

  • Work areas should have adequate lighting and be free of clutter. 

  • Observers should remain a safe distance away from the work area. 

  • Be sure to keep good footing and maintain good balance while using the tool. 

  • Do not wear loose clothing, ties, or jewelry when operating tools.  

  • Wear appropriate gloves and footwear while using tools. 

  • Always wear protective eyewear while using the tools. Safety glasses and perhaps a safety shield.

Servicing and Storing Tools: 

  • Never modify a tool to use for a job that it is not intended to do. 

  • Disconnect power tools while servicing or storing them. 

  • Do not wrap the cord around the tool for storage. 

  • Store tools in a dry place. 

Contact OMAG Loss Control Services if you have questions or suggestions for other topics related to Municipal Workplace Safety Issues. 1 (800) 234-9461 or email Kip Prichard at kprichard@omag.org.


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