by Stevie Donald
Whether cordless, gas-powered or electric, power tools have revolutionized home building and repair. Imagine building an entire house with hand tools like saws, hammers and screwdrivers. Speed and power sometimes come with a price, however: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists several serious hazards associated with power tools, including electrocution, explosions and injuries from blades and moving parts. This list of safety facts offers tips on using power tools effectively without causing injury to yourself or others.
Types: Most power tools used around the house are battery-powered, such as cordless drills. There are also electric tools, like power saws, and gas-powered tools, including weed whackers and some power washers. Pneumatic tools and powder-actuated tools, like jackhammers and nail guns, are primarily used for heavy construction, road work and in industrial settings.
Considerations: Misuse and poor maintenance are two of the greatest dangers associated with power tools. When purchasing power tools, do not only save the safety and maintenance instructions; read and follow them.
Protective gear: Protective gear is recommended when working with many power tools. Wear safety glasses when sanding, grinding or spraying. You might need to wear gloves and closed-toe, non-slip footwear, especially when operating power tools from a ladder or scaffolding or on a roof. Avoid wearing jewelry and loose clothing, because it can get caught in moving parts.
Proper maintenance: Store power tools in their cases whenever possible. Keep blades sharp, moving parts lubricated as recommended and the tool clean. Unplug electric tools when not in use and keep children away from them.
Function: Accidents can happen if a power tool is used incorrectly or used for a purpose other than intended. Incorrectly sized or worn-out drill and screwdriver bits can slip out of place and injure the user. If power or chain saws are used on wood that is too large for the design of the saw or blade, they can shatter or bounce back, causing serious injuries. Using a gas-powered tool without adequate ventilation can lead to a buildup of gas fumes, a potential fire or explosion.
Electrical hazards: Inspect electric power tools and cords before every use for cracked housings and worn or split cords, and do not use them unless they're in good repair. Extension cords can create a tripping hazard for anyone working in the area and should always be used with a three-wire, grounded plug. Never use electric power tools in the rain or around water, unless they're designed to be waterproof.
Guards: Safety guards are an integral part of many power tools. They shield the user from moving parts such as pulleys, fan belts and blades. On paint sprayers and power washers, tip guards direct the spray and help keep the user's hands away from high-velocity fluids. Using tools with the guards removed can be very dangerous.