Power Tool Safety

The golden rule of power tool safety is always using the right tool for the job. Even if you’ve used the wrong tool in the past and “gotten away with it” or “it worked just fine.” Taking the time to locate the appropriate tool and inspect it to ensure it is safe to use will pay off in the long run.

Using portable power tools is one of the best time savers on the job. Because we use them so often, we tend to forget they have the potential to cause deep wounds with nerve damage, break bones, sever limbs, electrocute, and bring death. Here are some examples of incidents caused by power tools:

  • “A sheet metal man was installing flashing on a church roof. Using a power drill on the roof edge, he lost his balance when the drill cut through the material. Failing to use fall protection, he toppled 30 feet to his death.”
  • “A carpenter amputated three fingers using a portable circular saw incorrectly. He tried to adjust the blade depth with one hand, with the other on the grip handle. He accidentally hit the trigger.”

To avoid incidents keep in mind the following tips when using power tools:

  • Always use the right tool for the right job. No substitutions allowed!
  • Never rush what you are doing. Always pay close attention. Don’t let anything distract you. Think ahead!
  • Always wear safety goggles or safety glasses with side shields. Use a dust mask for dusty operations, and wear hearing protection if you’ll be using the tool for an extended period of time. Be sure all appropriate guards are in place and working.
  • Never overreach when using a power tool. Stay firmly planted on both feet. When using hand-held power tools, always keep a firm grip with both hands. Losing control creates a hazardous situation. Do not use any tool that is too heavy for you to easily control.
  • Before you plug in any power tool, make sure the power switch is off.
  • Make sure cutters or blades are clean, sharp and securely in place. Never use bent, broken, or warped blades or cutters. Never use a tool that is damaged or malfunctioning in any way.
  • Make sure your work area is neat and clean and free of any debris that might get in your way or be ignited by hot tools, chips or sparks.
  • Never use power tools in wet or damp conditions.
  • Need an extension cord? Make sure it’s a heavy duty cord and don’t use indoor rated cords outside. If the tool has a three-pronged plug, make sure you use a three-pronged extension cord plugged into a three-pronged outlet.
  • Always unplug, clean and store the tool in a safe, dry place when you are finished using it.


Don’t let these “famous last words” be YOUR last words:

  • “It’s only 110 —it can’t really hurt you.”
  • “Let me just stretch a little and drill this one hole.”
  • “I emptied this nail gun …”
  • “Let me pull this saw blade guard back just to finish this one cut.”


It’s not the fall that hurts. It’s the sudden stop!

Falls are one of the most common causes of injuries. And approximately one in five falls are fatal. Your employer has safeguards in place, such as guardrails and fall protection supplies and procedures, but there is a lot you can to do to reduce the chance of an incident. Here are some things to consider:

HOUSEKEEPING: Keep floors in work areas as clean and dry as possible. Good housekeeping habits are the best way to ensure good footing, which is essential to preventing falls. Scrap lumber, trash, wire, and slippery areas caused by water, grease, or oil can cause falls. Housekeeping is especially important in high traffic areas like hallways where pedestrians may not be paying close attention to where they put their feet.

LADDERS: Select a ladder that suits the purpose. Many workers believe that they can use any ladder for any job. Make sure your ladder is in good condition and that the foundation is secure. Use both hands when climbing and always face the ladder when going up or down. Do not carry tools with you.

SCAFFOLDS: Scaffolds need to be inspected daily by a competent person. Use a tagging system:

  • green – scaffold safe to use
  • yellow – use caution when using scaffolding. The tag should list the precautions needed for safe use.
  • red – do not use scaffold

Even if it will be used for only a short time, scaffolding should be constructed like a permanent structure. Provide guardrails and toe boards to help prevent falls. Whenever you’re on a single-point or a two-point suspended scaffold, wear appropriate fall protection. Be sure it’s tied to a secure independent life line.

FLOOR AND WALL OPENINGS: Cover floor openings or protect them with standard guardrails and toe boards. Protect wall openings, except for doorways and stairways through which persons could fall. This protection should be secured and substantial enough to prevent displacement.

STAIRS: Falls on stairways are usually caused by running, carrying objects that block your line of sight, failure to use handrails, or just not paying attention. Watch your step and pay attention to what you are doing.