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Shop Safety

Hand Tool Safety

Preventing accidents involving hand tools is a matter of proper instruction and adequate training.  The following guidelines should be observed: 


  1. The tools should be of good quality and adequate for the job at hand.  
  2. All tools should be kept in good repair and maintained by qualified personnel. 
  3. Racks, shelves or toolboxes should be provided for storing tools.
  4. Supervisors should frequently inspect all hand tools used in operations under their supervision and remove defective tools from the service immediately. 
  5. Tool handles should be carefully selected to ensure that the materials are free from flaws and it is essential to observe the following: 
    1. When the handles of hammers, axes, picks or sledges become cracked, split, broken or splintered they should be immediately replaced.  
    2. Tool handles should be well fitted and securely fastened by wedges or other acceptable means.  Wedges, always in pairs, should be driven with a sledgehammer or maul. Wedges with mushroomed edges should not be used until properly dressed.  
    3. If tool heads can be drilled, a steel pin should be driven through the head and handle to prevent the head from accidentally flying off the handle.  
    4. Files, wood chisels and other tools with tangs should be fitted with suitable handles which cover the end of the tang. 
    5. Handles should be kept free of grease and other slippery substances.  
    6. Ends of handles should not be used for pounding or tapping.  
    7. Improvised extension handles such as pipes or bars should not be used.  
    8. Wood tool handles should not be painted except by the manufacturer.  
  6. Cold chisels, punches, hammers, drift pins and other similar tools which have a tendency to mushroom from repeated poundings, should be dressed down as soon as they begin to split and curl.  The following safety precautions should also be observed: 
    1. When dressing tools, a slight bevel of about 3/16" should be ground around the head.  This will prevent the heads from mushrooming.  
    2. Safety glasses or face shields should be worn by all personnel when work may produce flying chips or debris.  
  7. Cutting tools should be kept sharp and stored in safe manner. 
    1. Knives and similar hand tools should be equipped with guards at the hilt to prevent the employee's hand from slipping down on the blade.  
    2. Sharp or pointed tools should always be carried in sheaths not in clothing pockets. 
  8. Machinery should be completely stopped before repairs or adjustments are attempted.  When absolutely necessary to work on operating machines, personnel should use only the tools designed and approved for the repairs.  Only personnel qualified to repair or adjust the machinery should perform this work.
  9. Small objects should be held in vises while work is performed because injuries can result from trying to hold a small object in one hand while working on it.  
  10. Select the proper type hammer for the job.  No hammer should be used that has a cracked or defective head and it is important to remember the following: 
    1. The sides of hammer heads are not case hardened and should never be used for pounding.  
    2. Hammers with tightly tempered steel heads should not be used on hard steel objects.  Hammers with heads made of soft materials should be used.  
  11. Wrenches:  
    The proper size and type of wrench should be selected to do only the jobs for which it was designed and employees should observe the following:  
    1. Place wrenches on nuts or bolts so the pulling force will tend to push the jaws against the work. To prevent the wrench from slipping, the handle should be pulled not pushed.  
    2. Avoid over straining small wrenches and no wrench should be subjected to side strain.   
    3. Shims should not be used to make wrenches of an improper size fit the work at hand.  
    4. A pipe wrench should not be used as a substitute for other types of wrenches. 
    5. A wrench should never be used as a hammer.   
    6. Hammering on wrench handles to free frozen nuts should not be permitted unless specifically designed striking-wrenches are used.    
  12. Screwdrivers:  
    The proper type screwdriver should be selected for each job.  The wrong size or type tool is responsible for many injuries. Always observe the following: 
    1. Conventional type drivers should not be used on Phillips or cross-slotted head-type screw slots.
    2. Objects should not be held by hand, under the arm or on the lap when being worked on with a screwdriver. Work should be secured to a flat surface or held in a vise. 
    3. Employees should make certain that they are well braced before applying force to a screwdriver. A firm foothold is particularly necessary when using a screwdriver on a ladder or stand. 
    4. A screwdriver should never be used as a punch, wedge, chisel, pinch bar, pry or nail puller. 
    5. Only use screwdrivers that are designed and approved for electrical work.  However, insulated screwdrivers should never be utilized as the primary protection against electrical shock. 
    6. Worn screwdriver blades should be dressed by grinding or filing so the bottoms are flat and the sides almost parallel. Blades that are ground with too much taper and will tend to rise out of the screw when pressure is applied. 
  13. Knives:  
    All knives, except folding pocket types, should be equipped with hand shields or sure-grip handles to keep the user's hand from slipping down onto the blades. Non-folding knives carried on a person should be kept in leather sheaths.  
    1. When using a knife always cut away from your body, but be careful not to endanger fellow employees. 
    2. Knife blades should be kept as sharp as possible.  
    3. When not in use, knives should be kept in racks or stored safely so that they will not be a hazard.  
  14. Pliers and Nippers: 
    Be careful using nippers or pliers on electrically energized circuits.  The equipment should be approved for electrical work.  If possible, the electrical circuits should be turned off.   
  15. Vises:  
    When clamping or holding heavy objects, a block of wood or metal should be used to brace the object and prevent it from accidentally falling or slipping from the vise.  It is also important to observe the following: 
    1. Vises should not be opened beyond the limit of screw travel.  
    2. Vises should never be used as anvils nor should metal work be placed in wood vises.  
  16. Punches, cold chisels and similar tools that are hand-held should be kept free of slippery substances. 
    Hand guards and tool holders should be used if practical.  The following rules should also be observed: 
    1. Tools that have become mushroomed should not be used until they have been properly dressed.  
    2. Employees should wear safety  glasses, goggles or face shields when striking tools such as chisels or punches. 
    3. When work is being chipped in a vise, the force of the chisel should be toward the solid jaw of the vise.  
    4. Suitable safety shields or screens should be used when chipping is performed in the vicinity of other personnel. 
  17. Hatchets, Axes, Adzes, and Wedges:  
    Woodcutting tools should  be kept as sharp as possible at all times. The most common hazard with this type equipment is the handle separating from the blade while in use.  Always observe the following: 
    1. Make certain all personnel in the area are at a safe distance before using an adze, axe or hatchet.  
    2. Never swing or cut toward a fellow employee.  
    3. Use short, choppy strokes to ensure better control.  
    4. Keep blades of woodcutting tools free of chips or other debris to prevent deflection of the blow.  
    5. Always pass this equipment to a fellow employee with the handle first, be sure to keep a firm hold on the head until the other person has a secure grip of the handle.  
    6. Woodcutting tools should be stored with the sharp edge of the blade protected.  
  18. Blow Torches: 
    1. Blow torches should not be used in unventilated areas or near flammable or explosive materials.  
    2. The torch should be inspected before use to make sure it is in safe working condition. 
    3. A gasoline blowtorch should not be used until the instructions have been read.  
    4. Torches should be filled with fuel while out-of-doors and away from sources of ignition.  
    5. Blow torches should be set on a firm surface before they are lighted.  
    6. Never light a torch that has had fuel accidentally spilled on the unit     until the surface has been thoroughly cleaned.  
    7. Never move a torch when fuel is still burning in the priming bowl. 
  19. Soldering Irons: 
    1. Metal racks placed in safe areas should be used for resting hot irons. 
    2. The iron should be checked before each use to make certain the copper is securely fastened to the shaft and the handle should be checked to make sure it is not loose.  
    3. Electric soldering irons should never be left plugged-in when not in use.  
    4. Cords and plug connections should be kept in good repair.  Replace wires with frayed or broken insulation.  
    5. Personnel should avoid breathing the fumes from soldering fluxes and acids.  Dripping, hot solder may cause burns or damage the work.   
    6. Small jobs being soldered should be held with pliers or clamps to prevent burns.  
    7. Rags used to clean excess solder from hot irons should be placed on a fire resistant surface.  A rag should not be held by bare hand to perform this cleaning operation.  
  20. Hand Saws: 
    1. Saws should be checked before each use to ensure that they are sharp and properly set.  
    2. The proper saw should be chosen for the job at hand, such as a crosscut saw for cutting across the grain or a ripsaw for cutting with the grain.  
    3. Do not force a saw that is binding in the stock.  
    4. If a saw sticks in damp or gummy wood, a small amount of oil or paraffin can be applied to the blade to make it cut smoothly. Wedges may also be used to hold open the cut.  
  21. Crowbars and Wrecking bars: 
    1. Bars of sufficient size and weight should be chosen for each job at hand.  Makeshift bars, such as pipes or other metal objects should never be used in place of a crowbar or wrecking bar. 
    2. To prevent crowbars and wrecking bars from slipping, a block of wood can be placed under the bar.   This technique will also provide more leverage.  
    3. Case hardened steel tools should never be used to strike crowbars or wrecking bars.  Only use plastic, wood or soft metal tools to hammer on these types of pry-bars.   

Safety Principles in Using Portable Power Tools:  

The improper use of portable power  tools can cause electrical shock, burns, cuts or eye injuries. The employee using these  types of tools should be thoroughly trained in safe operating practices and should observe the following: 


  1. The switch should be shielded against accidental operation.  To provide greater operator safety, these tools should be equipped with a constant-pressure switch that will shut off the power supply if the pressure is released.  
  2. To prevent tripping hazards, cords, hoses and cables should not be run on the floor. 
  3. Special type cords (rubber covered or plastic) should be used in areas that may be contaminated with oils or solvents.  
  4. Projections on shafts or revolving parts of hand power tools should be removed, countersunk or ground smooth with the tool surface and provided a suitable metal cover. 
  5. The worker should wear suitable work clothes to operate these tools.  Loose sleeves, neckties, rings, clothing or jewelry that could become tangled in a hand power tool should never be worn.  
  6. Operators should wear protective eyeglasses, goggles or face shields.  
  7. Power tools should be inspected regularly by qualified personnel to ensure they are in safe operating condition.  Equipment with broken or worn parts,  defective and frayed electrical cords or other damages should be immediately taken out of  service.  
  8. Portable grinders should be completely guarded on the top, sides and bottom of the wheel.  Wheels should be secured to spindles by flange nuts and all mountings firmly fixed to the tool. 
  9. Portable circular saws should be checked before each use for cracked or defective blades.  Damaged blades should be immediately discarded.  Permanent, selfadjusting guards should be provided on all portable saws.  
  10. Scratch brushes used on portable power tools should be permanently guarded in the same manner as grinding wheels.  
  11. Personnel who use electric power tools should be trained in the following safe operating procedures: 
    1. Electric powered tools should not be used near flammable materials or in explosive atmospheres unless they meet the requirements of the National Electrical Code for the type of area and atmosphere in which the tool is to be used.  
    2. All portable electrical tools with exposed metal parts should be grounded or double insulated to meet the requirements of the National Electrical Code. 
    3. When electric-powered tools are used in damp or wet locations such as in tanks or boilers, effective grounding is mandatory. 
    4. Workers should avoid abusing power cords by excessive scraping, kinking, stretching or exposure to grease and oils. Damage to cables can cause premature failures, possible shock and burns. 
    5. Heavy duty plugs, clamped securely to the cords, should be used on all power tools.  Personnel should not attempt to unplug power cords by jerking the cord from the receptacle.  
  12. Tools powered by compressed air should have the hose secured with couplings.  Complete instructions for the safe use of compressed air are outlined in Section 1. 9 of this chapter.  Operators should also observe the following: 
    1. Air supply hoses should be suspended over aisles and walkways.  
    2. Air supply control valves should not be locked open.  
    3. Air-powered tools should be inspected before each use.  
    4. Grind bit attachments so that the flukes are uniform in size and shape. 
    5. Employees should never point pneumatic equipment at other personnel.  
    6. Each air-supplied tool should be equipped with safety locks to prevent accidental operation.  
    7. Air valves should be inspected on daily basis to make sure they are operating properly.  
    8. Operators should turn off air at the main control valve before changing or disconnecting any pneumatic tool unless the supply hose has an automatic quick disconnect. 
    9. Hoses should be connected to the tool housings by safety chains. Tools that have hoses with quick disconnects are exempt from this requirement.  
  13. Explosive-Actuated Tools:  Before being permitted to use an explosive-actuated tool, personnel should be instructed in the safety precautions of this equipment.  Prior to each use the supervisor should evaluate the job to determine the kind of materials encountered, the size and strength of explosive charges needed and possible dangers associated the operations. 
    1. Only power-driven tools bearing the manufacturer's label and number approved by the Industrial Code of Explosive Powered Tools should be used.  
    2. Each tool should be equipped with a steel muzzle guard at least 3 1/2" in diameter, mounted perpendicular to the barrel. 
    3. If a standard shield or guard cannot be used or the guard does not cover all possible paths of flying particles, a special shield, guard, fixture or jig that provides equal protection may be used instead of the standard steel guard.  
    4. To use the tool inside boxes or recessed areas, the guard should be secured to the muzzle so it can be adjusted.   
    5. Cartridge-powered tools should be constructed to prevent operation if they are not fitted with a muzzle guard, shield, fixture or jig.  
    6. This type equipment should have a built-in safety that will prevent firing unless the muzzle is pressed against a firm surface with a minimum force that is at least five pounds greater than the total weight of the tool.  
    7. Power-actuated tools equipped with standard muzzle guards will be built so the equipment will not fire if the guard is tilted more than 8Ε from solid contact with the working surface.  
    8. Fasteners should not be driven into masonry closer than 3" to a corner or edge unless jigs or special guards are used to stop flying particles.  
    9. Fasteners should not be fired into steel closer than 1/2" to an edge, corner or joint.  
    10. This type equipment should have a safety device to prevent accidental discharge if dropped.  
    11. Power-actuated tools should be designed to facilitate breech inspection and detect any debris or obstruction that may cause malfunction.  
    12. Tools of this type should not be used to fire a projectile into hardened steel, high-tensile steel, cast iron, glazed brick tile, hard brick, terra cotta, marble, granite, slate, glass or any other extra hard or brittle material.  
    13. These tools should be designed with the capability of altering the amount of power so that the operator can select a specific charge necessary to perform different types of work.  
    14. Each operator should be provided and required to wear safety goggles, eyeglasses or face shields while operating power-actuated tools.  
    15. Tools of this type should not be used in explosive or flammable atmospheres.  
    16. Tools should be inspected on a daily basis for safe operating condition and defective equipment should be taken out of service.  
    17. Tool and Explosive Charge Storage:  Tools and explosive charges should be stored separately.  The explosives should be in locked boxes or cabinets and it is essential to observe the following: 
      1. Once an operator has been issued a power-actuated tool they are responsible for its safe use. 
      2.  Power-actuated tools and explosive materials should be kept in separate containers while they are being transported.  
      3.  Power-actuated tools should not be left unattended at any time. 
      4.  The operators should not permit unauthorized personnel to handle or use the equipment.  
      5. Explosive charges should be removed when tools are not in use. 
    18.  The following standard system of power-loaded identification has been developed to enable positive selection of the desired power load:


Colors (Chargers)     
Brown (extra light)
Green (light)
Yellow (Medium)
Red (Heavy)
Purple (Extra Heavy)
Black (Magnum)



Additional safe operating requirements can be found in the manufacturer's instructions and appropriate commercial industrial codes.