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Hand tools and the use of hand tools seems simple and straight-forward; therefore, few employers provide any training in hand tool safety. Likewise, few employers conduct formal tool inspections. However, employees are frequently injured by using unsafe tools or by using tools improperly.

Inspection
1910.242(a) requires the employer to be responsible for safe condition of all tools regardless of the owner. They could be tools provided by the employer, workers’ personal tools or those belonging to contractors-the employer must make sure that all are in safe condition. This implies tool inspection of some sort. Employers should assign someone to be responsible to make sure all tools are in good condition and unsafe tools are removed from service. Users should also be trained to know when to take a tool out of service. A hammer with a cracked handle; a striking tool such as a cold chisel or alignment punch with a mushroomed head; a screwdriver with a worn tip should all be removed from service and discarded.

Workers must be trained to inspect tools and replace them when they become unsafe. The employer should conduct random toolbox inspections to check the condition of tools and any signs of tool misuse.

An alignment punch with a mushroomed head. “NOT FOR IMPACT USE.” Improper tool use.
Cheater bars used on adjustable and Allen wrenches. Improper use of tools.
Mushroomed Head. Tools should be discarded.
Hammer missing grip. File without handle.
Twist drill modified by brazing to extension rod. Overheating can weaken the drill.

Training
Workers will sometimes use the wrong tool for the job or will use tools improperly. For example, there are more than 50 different types of hammers. Workers should know which hammer to use for the job at hand rather than grab the nearest hammer and begin hitting away. They should know the type of screwdriver to use. Using a Reed & Prince instead of a Phillips can cause injury when the screwdriver slips. A screwdriver in good condition is a safe tool until the user begins to bang on it with a hammer like he would a punch. A screwdriver which is too small for the screw can slip and cause injury.

Train employees in the proper use of tools and develop a tool inspection program. If you have questions about tool safety or employee training or would like assistance, feel free to contact the safety experts at the EI Group, Inc. I can be reached at (919) 459-5249 or btaylor@ei1.com.