Appliances are particularly crucial in construction work. They are primarily used to put things together (e.g., hammers and nail guns) or to take them apart (e.g., jackhammers and saws). They are often classified as hand tools and power tools. Hand tools include all non-powered devices, such as hammers and pliers. Power tools are divided into classes, depending on the power source: electrical tools (powered by electricity), pneumatic tools (powered by compressed air), liquid-fuel tools (powered by gasoline), powder-actuated tools (powered by an explosive and operated like a gun) and hydraulic machines (powered by pressure from a liquid).
Each type presents some unique safety problems.
The primary hazard from hand tools is being struck by the device or by a piece of the material being worked on. Eye injuries are prevalent from the use of hand tools, as a piece of wood or metal can fly off and lodge in the eye. Some of the significant problems are using the wrong tool for the job or a machine that has not been adequately maintained. The size of the device is substantial: some women and men with relatively small hands have difficulty with large weapons. Dull tools can make the work much harder. Also, it requires more force and results in more injuries. A chisel with a mushroomed head might shatter on impact and send fragments flying. It is also essential to have the proper work surface. Cutting material at an awkward angle can result in a loss of balance and an injury. Also, hand tools can produce sparks that can ignite explosions if the work is being done around flammable liquids or vapors. In such cases, spark-resistant devices, such as those made from brass or aluminum, are needed.
Power tools are more dangerous than hand tools because the power of the device is increased. The most significant dangers from power tools are from accidental start-up and slipping or losing one’s balance during use. The power source itself can cause injuries or death, for example, through electrocution with electrical tools or gasoline explosions from liquid-fuel tools. Most power tools have a guard to protect the moving parts while the device is not in operation. These guards need to be in working order and not overridden. Power tools often also have safety switches that shut off the machine as soon as a switch is released. Other devices have catches that must be engaged before the device can operate. One example is a fastening tool that must be pressed against the surface with a certain amount of pressure before it will fire.
One of the primary hazards of electrical tools is the risk of electrocution. A frayed wire or a device that does not have a ground (that directs the electrical circuit to the field in an emergency) can result in electricity running through the body and death by electrocution. This can be prevented by using double-insulated tools (insulated wires in an insulated housing), grounded tools and ground-fault circuit interrupters (which will detect a leak of electricity from a cable and automatically shut off the device). Another one is by never using electrical appliances in damp or wet locations; and by wearing insulated gloves and safety footwear. Power cords should always be protected from abuse and damage.
Other types of power tools include powered abrasive-wheel machines, like grinding, cutting or buffing wheels, which present the risk of flying fragments coming off the bike. The motor should be tested to make sure it is not cracked and will not operate apart during use. It should spin freely on its spindle. The user should never stand directly in front of the wheel during start-up, in case it breaks. Eye protection is essential when using these tools.
Pneumatic tools include chippers, drills, hammers, and sanders. Some pneumatic tools shoot fasteners at high speed and pressure into surfaces and, as a result, it presents the risk of killing nails to the user or others. If the object being fastened is thin, the fastener may go through it and strike someone at a distance. These tools can also be noisy and cause hearing loss.
Air hoses should be well connected before use to prevent them from disconnecting and whipping around. Air hoses should be protected from abuse and damage as well. Compressed-air guns should never be pointed at anyone or against oneself. Eye, face and hearing protection should be required. Jackhammer users should also wear foot protection in case these big tools are dropped.
Gas-powered tools present fuel explosion hazards, particularly during filling. They should be filled only after they have been shut down and allowed to cool off. Proper ventilation must be provided if they are being filled in a closed space. Using these tools in a closed area can also cause problems from carbon monoxide exposure.
Hydraulic power tools should use a fire-resistant fluid and be operated under safe pressures. A jack should have a safety mechanism to prevent it from being jacked up too high and should display its load limit prominently. Studs have to be set up on a level surface, bear against a level surface and apply force evenly to be used safely.
In general, tools should be inspected before use, be well-maintained, be operated according to the manufacturer’s instructions and be operated with safety systems (e.g., guards). Users should have proper PPE, such as safety glasses.
Tools can present two other hazards that are often overlooked: vibration and sprains and strains. Power tools present a considerable vibration hazard to workers. The most well-known example is chain-saw vibration, which can result in “white-finger” disease, where the nerves and blood vessels in the hands are damaged. Other power tools can present hazardous exposures to vibration for construction workers. As much as possible, workers and contractors should purchase tools where vibration has been dampened or reduced; anti-vibration gloves have not been shown to solve this problem.
Poorly designed tools can also contribute to fatigue from awkward postures or grips, which, in turn, can also lead to accidents. Many devices are not intended for use by left-handed workers or individuals with small hands. Use of gloves can make it harder to grip a tool properly and requires tighter gripping of power tools, which can result in excessive fatigue. Use of tools by construction workers for repetitive jobs can also lead to cumulative trauma disorders, like carpal tunnel syndrome or tendinitis. Using the right tool for the job and choosing devices with the best design features that feel most comfortable in the hand while working can assist in avoiding these problems.
Ask A Question
Share this item via Email