When you think of hand tools, you probably find non-powered staples like hammers, spanners, or screwdrivers coming to mind. Powered tools come into this category too, such as angle grinders, chainsaws, or electric drills.
It could be a simple kitchen knife or a jigsaw with a 50-page user manual. Hand tools have the capacity to harm the user and those around them. Cuts, lacerations, sprains, strains, even loss of sight or amputation of limbs can result from misuse.
Hazards can arise from poor maintenance of hand tools. A lack of training in their use, inadequate controls, or missing safety guards for moving parts.
In this guide, we’ll explain how to use hand tools safely, what the law says on managing them, and what procedures to follow.
How to use hand tools safely
Using hand tools safely in the workplace is essential. Employees who work in warehouses, construction sites, or industrial sites will likely use hand tools more frequently than others.
You should start with a risk assessment to ensure your employees are using hand tools in the correct way. This should identify:
- Those who are most vulnerable to the risks, such as new or untrained workers.
- The level of risk each tool presents. Prioritise higher risks such as power tools.
- Steps you’ve taken to remove or reduce the risks, such as staff training.
Choose your control measures in proportion to the risk. Your hand tool kit might be simple, such as non-powered tools like hammers and chisels.
You can easily train staff to use and maintain these tools on a low budget. The risk is lower, so your risk assessment can be less detailed.
On the other end of the scale, chainsaws require a great deal of inspection and maintenance, not to mention the fitness of operators.
They require in-depth training and operators must be competent to use the equipment for specific tasks.
What does the law say about managing hand tool safety?
Employers have a general duty to ensure their employees’ health, safety, and welfare at work so far as is reasonably practicable.
This includes ensuring their safety from the risks of hand tools and work equipment.
Hand tools and most work equipment are subject to the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, and the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005.
PUWER places specific duties on you as an employer to consider the health & safety implications of the work equipment you use.
Any powered tools should be properly maintained and tested, and noise generated by hand tools should be reduced as low as possible.
Suitable PPE should be issued for using hand tools, determined by the process of risk assessment.
How to avoid mistakes with hand tools
You might consider hand tools to be simple and anybody with ‘common sense’ could use them. On the contrary, nobody is born with common sense.
We learn from our mistakes. What you might find obvious is the result of years of practical experience.
Somebody new to your sector will clearly lack that experience. They too might think what they’re doing is common sense, taking a shortcut to finish the task faster and be more efficient.
In doing so, they might do something unthinkable in an experienced worker’s eyes, who may have seen this mistake happen before.
In order to avoid mistakes, there are some safety rules your employees can follow:
- Use designated spaces where your workers use hand tools, especially cutting tools.
- Keep hand tools in working order.
- Provide appropriate PPE training.
- Regularly train your employees on how to use hand tools.
Get expert guidance on using hand tools with Peninsula
As an employer, you have a legal duty to protect the safety of your employees when using hand tools.
You should carry out risk assessments to ensure your employees know how to use hand tools safely and how to avoid accidents. If the correct training isn’t carried out and employees hurt themselves, you could face disciplinary action and a hefty fine.
Peninsula offers expert advice on managing the risks of hand tools. We also have templates for risk assessments, maintenance records, and resources to help you keep track of your work equipment.