One of the biggest issues I encounter among construction workers, which actually affects their safety in a very negative way is complacency. Workers (in any field not only construction) tend to become complacent and too familiar with certain tools of their trade and this “familiarity” sometimes has devastating consequences. This is because the more a worker uses a tool the more comfortable they become, they begin to think that they are too experienced to make a mistake with something they use every day and subconsciously begin to ignore proper safety protocols for use of these “familiar” tools.
Hand tools are one of those tools that are so commonly utilized and seemingly “simple” to use that workers can sometimes ignore safety and handle these tools improperly, resulting in an injury.
Australian authorities do try to ensure that manufacturers comply with the highest safety standards when manufacturing tools but all too often hand tools can be misused resulting in serious injury, mainly when the manufacturer’s instructions are ignored.
Workers need to realize that hand tools can be just as dangerous as any other tool and the hazards associated with them need to managed accordingly
Hand tools such as hammers, axes, wrenches and chisels etc. are very common on building sites and because they are non-powered they are often not considered “dangerous” enough to warrant safety, but they still pose hazards and these hazards need to be managed accordingly.
Misuse and improper use are still the main causes of injury from hand tools. People often use the wrong tool for the job for example if the correct tool is not in their reach they improvise and use whatever they have, this is when incidents occur.
Examples of Hand tool Misuse:
- When a chisel is needed but not available and a screwdriver is, it may result in the tip of the screwdriver breaking away and hitting into another worker.
- Loose handles on hammers and axes are also a hazard as the front can fall or fly off injuring someone. Splintered or cracked handles also present a hazard.
- Sometimes workers attempt to use an old wrench which has lost its spring, this can cause slipping and injury.
There are many other ways that hand tools can be misused but these are the most common.
Employers need to ensure that workers are trained on correct use of hand tools and which tools to use for which jobs. The employer is responsible for the safe condition of tools and equipment used by employees but the employees have the responsibility for properly using and maintaining tools
If a tool is damaged or defected, it must be reported immediately.
Another area often overlooked is using dull tools instead of sharp ones which can be more hazardous than one thinks. Appropriate personal protective equipment, e.g., safety goggles, gloves, etc., should be worn due to hazards that may result when using portable power tools and hand tools.
Also the work environment, or construction site should be kept clean and clutter free, floors especially to prevent workers accidentally slipping on hand tools. Best practice is to lock tools in a tool box to avoid them presenting a tripping hazard on site.