What's the Most Dangerous Power Tool? Could it Be You?

Eric Streuli (Bosch) kindly demonstrated best safety practise when using a power drill (click to view video) and Ray Wilby (Makita) walked us through how to safely use a nail gun (click to view).

Jim Dewart commented (on this Toolstop blog thread) how you need a strong wrist when using the Makita BHP 452 combi drill. Strength helps, for sure, but is brute strength the key factor in safely using a power tool that packs plenty of torque?

As power tools get more, well, powerful, how are their safety features stacking up in comparison? Bosch and Makita where at great lengths to demonstrate to us on our visits to their HQs last year the level of safety features built in as standard on their power tools. However, oftentimes safe power tool handling is a matter of common sense; simple things like reading the manual (RTFM) can be the difference between ably cutting or routing a piece of wood and not losing an appendage into the bargain. In real terms, the manufacturers can try to think of every normal-use eventuality that you, the end user, may encounter when you're on the job site. But they're not going to be there to tut-tut over your shoulder when you're not taking proper due care and attention of that hammer drill in your hand.

The web has tons of articles on how dangerous power tools can be, loaded with statistics on the number of serious injuries and deaths each year on job sites - and in private homes.

Some key problems can be;

  1. inattention through repetition
  2. unexpected events
  3. inexperience and overconfidence

Let's look at them a bit closer.

Inattention through repetition

This isn't rocket science. You're doing the same job over and over and you're on a deadline. Oh, and the job site is busy with loads of other people all working hard to make their deadlines. Your attention wanders, you get complacent because you're doing a job you know how to do well.

Top Tip: Pause after every few operations, refocus your mind on the job at hand.

Unexpected events

Your drill is spinning at close to 1000 RPM, it's eating through that concrete block. Suddenly the tool kick-back. Or the blade gets stuck in that chuck of wood you're cutting. Whatever it may be, the sheer speed and power of your power tools can create sudden moments of noise and panic that can lead to personal injury.

Top Tip: Make sure you're confident in using your power tool, you're holding it correctly, you understand how it works and your workspace is as uncluttered as possible.

Inexperience and overconfidence

Each brings it's own set of problems. First of all a very experience power tool operator may suffer from a sense of overconfidence that leads him or her into dangerous situations of inattention. Or it may be they just don't feel they need to use safety features or proper PPE. They get casual because of their overconfidence.

Conversely, inexperienced operators don't understand how their power tools work or the sheer speed and power they pack. They may not realise that they way they're operating it is hugely dangerous, not being fully instructed on the safest way to handle the tool.

Top Tip: Respect your tools whether you've been using them for 20 years or 20 minutes. And RTFM.

Toolstop have compiled a series of videos on the safest ways to use power tools. You can find them here. We've also got extensive power tool safety information on our main site. Make sure you're not the most dangerous power tool on the job site....

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