Incorrect use of power tools could make holding hands on Valentine’s Day difficult

By Jeff Salton on February 14th, 2017
  1. Risk Management
  2. Hazard Identification

Bandage treatment of an injured hand. Simulated exercise, not a real injury

Warning! Don’t wreck someone’s Valentine’s Day by allowing them to incorrectly use a power tool that results in a workplace incident and a visit to hospital.

The introduction of power tools has provided major production improvements for many businesses. But the risk of injury to workers has also increased, especially when these tools are not handled properly.

This is not rocket science to most readers, yet the number of workers presenting at hospital emergency departments, requiring surgery to repair hand and finger injuries, is still alarming.

Last week in the ACT:

  • a worker suffered a finger injury while cutting timber with a fixed drop-saw in a factory;
  • a worker sustained an arm injury when cutting material with a four-inch battery grinder without the safety handle attached; and
  • a worker suffered an injury to his fingers from a mechanical path-edger.

That’s obviously just a small sample from what occurred nationally.

But this has prompted Access Canberra to issue a Safety Alert to remind business-owners of their responsibility to ensure workers:

  • know how to operate power tools they are using;
  • only use tools for the purposes for which they were created; and
  • don’t remove any safety guards, etc, from tools they are using.

Training and instruction

The regulator says that before a business requires its workers to attempt any tasks that are new or different, operators must be given training and instruction on the safe use of the power tool (perhaps a reminder class wouldn’t hurt, either).

Certain tools like drop-saws, angle grinders, and drill presses are among the ‘usual suspects’ for causing injuries when not used correctly.

The ACT regulator says business-owners should ensure that workers using angle grinders should:

  • use the tool with the correct guard supplied by the manufacturer;
  • use the correct spindle flange and lock nut for the disc and make sure these are fitted the way the angle grinder manufacturer shows in the instruction manual;
  • the guard should be designed to prevent cutting with the front and upper quadrant of the blade;
  • use wet-cutting when possible as water acts as a lubricant, reduces reactive forces and limits dust and fumes; and
  • ensure the object being cut or drilled is fully supported and secured so it can’t roll away or slip.

And, of course, ensure that operators are wearing the appropriate PPE.

All of these tips can be captured in a Safe Operating Procedure (SOP) – a written document that provides step-by-step instructions on how to safely perform a task or activity in the workplace.

7 benefits of an effective SOP

Michael Selinger, Editor-in-Chief of the Health & Safety Handbook, says some of the key benefits of developing effective SOPs are that they:

  1. reduce the risk of illness and injury in the workplace;
  2. are considered an important aspect of complying with your general duty to protect workers and others in the workplace;
  3. can be used in court as evidence of taking reasonable steps to reduce health and safety risks;
  4. increase your workers’ awareness of health and safety risks;
  5. demonstrate your business’s commitment to improving safety in the workplace;
  6. can be used to train workers in the steps required to perform their tasks safely; and
  7. improve communication between workers, their supervisors and managers.

A safe system of work also ensures that no-one is exposed to any risks when working in the vicinity of a power tool saw by creating exclusion zones with clearly defined physical barriers and signage, etc.

The Health & Safety Handbook is written in plain English by Michael and the experts at Holding Redlich lawyers. It provides a comprehensive chapter on Safe Operating Procedures (SOP) and guides you step-by-step through the process of creating SOPs for all your plant and equipment.

Don’t take holding hands with a loved one for granted on Valentine’s Day. Get your copy of the Health & Safety Handbook and put workers’ safety first.


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