You’ve all seen the safety warnings that are listed as the first page or two in the instruction manual that accompanies every new tool. And if you’re like most people, you’ve probably only glanced at them in your enthusiasm to get that tool unpacked — if you’ve read them at all.
It’s unfortunate the overly litigious society we live in today has prompted the need to paste a warning label on every available square inch of just about everything we pick up. Unfortunate not because the warnings aren’t valuable, it’s just that we are so inundated and overwhelmed with them that we often don’t give them the attention they deserve.
Safety warnings are, however, there for a reason. Some are generic in nature, and some are very specific to that particular tool. And while many may seem like simple common sense, always remember that ignoring even the most basic of them can result in serious injuries, literally in the blink of an eye. So take a moment to review some of these common power tool safety precautions, and keep them in the back of your mind the next time you’re hard at work.
1. Protect your eyes. When using any kind of power tool, wear safety glasses or an eye shield. If you are relying on your own prescription glasses for protection, talk with your eye doctor or eyeglass provider to be certain the lenses will provide the necessary level of protection.
2. Protect the rest of you. Don’t wear loose or ragged clothing. Don’t wear a necktie. Be very cautious of jewelry, which can easily snag on moving equipment. Don’t work barefoot, or in loose or open-toed shoes. Keep long hair contained.
3. Never use a tool that’s broken. Common sense again, but remember that duct tape is not the proper solution for everything that occurs on a construction site. If a tool housing is cracked; if a cord is worn or frayed; if a part is missing or only partially attached — don’t use the tool! Take it in for repairs, or discard it altogether if it’s not cost-effective to repair.
4. Don’t defeat the guards. Blade and moving part guards are there for a reason, so don’t try to defeat or disable them. If the guards don’t work properly, repair or replace them prior to using the tool. Never pin back the blade guard on a circular saw.
5. Keep cutting tools sharp. Sharp tools are safer to use than dull ones. They work more efficiently, they prevent you from pushing the tool harder than you should, and they are much less likely to kick back.
6. Keep work areas clean. Regularly clean up sawdust, wood scraps and extra materials from floors and tables where you’re working. Put extra tools away when you’re done with them. When removing scraps or cleaning up, make sure the power tools you’re using are shut off and have stopped rotating. Also, keep your work area well lit.
7. Secure your workpiece. A piece of wood, metal or other material that is caught by a spinning blade or bit can accelerate to highly dangerous speeds in just an instant, far faster than you can react or get out of the way. So when cutting, drilling or performing other operations, make sure the workpiece is clamped down or otherwise secured.
8. Pay attention. Here’s another common-sense one, but it takes only a second of inattention for a serious accident to occur. Keep distractions to a minimum while you’re working. Never use tools when you’ve been drinking or are under the influence of drugs, and remember that many prescription and over-the-counter medications can impair your ability to use tools safely.
9. Know the motion of the tool. When using a router, know which way to move the tool around the workpiece. When using a table saw, know where to stand to avoid the hazards of a potential kickback.
10. Keep your footing. Don’t overreach with the tool, and always maintain proper footing and balance.
11. Avoid accidental starting. When servicing or adjusting the tool or changing bits or blades, unplug the tool first. It just takes a second, and can prevent serious injury if a switch is accidentally activated.
12. Secure cutting bits and blades. Make sure that bits, blades or other changeable cutting equipment are properly installed and secured, and that chuck keys, wrenches and other tools are removed and stored away prior to starting the tool.
13. Read, understand and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Finally — read your instructions. You may think you know how to use that tool, but the instruction manual contains a lot of very valuable information.
Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.