MRO Magazine

Avoid power-tool accidents with these safety rules


June 14, 2010
By PEM Magazine

According to safety experts, more than eight percent of industrial accidents result from improper use of power tools. Whether it’s employing the wrong tool for the job, carelessness or failing to wear protective gear, the consequences are oftentimes tragic — especially since virtually all power tool accidents are preventable.

McGill, a provider of electrical safety equipment, has presented a checklist for safe use of power tools.

• Use tools only for the specific task they’re designed for, and never operate any tool — power or manual — unless you’re trained to do so.

• Carefully read the owner’s manual before using a tool.


• Inspect power tools before each use. If parts are worn or damaged, especially cords that become frayed, replace or repair them. Because vibration can loosen the tool’s parts, its screws, nuts, and bolts may need tightening.

• Keep workshops and storage spaces clean and dry to prevent accidents. Sparks ignite scraps, sawdust, and solvents; water conducts electricity.

• Prior to plugging or unplugging tools, be sure the power switch is turned to ‘off.’ And never disconnect power by pulling on the cord. Instead, remove the plug from the outlet.

• If working on a ladder or scaffolding, carefully set your power tools on a flat surface or in a bin secured to the ladder itself.

• Always use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) when working with power tools. (McGill offers several plug-in GFCIs for indoor and outdoor use that stop power when loads have a potentially lethal ground current.)

• Remove rings, jewelry or loose clothing before operating a power tool.

• Wear personal protective equipment, such as face shields, safety goggles and disposable masks.

Preventing accidental startups
Power tools operate at very high speeds, so when things happen, they tend to happen fast. A sudden tool startup after a voltage drop or power interruption can suddenly fling a workpiece at the operator. Fingers may be drawn into a cutting blade, or the tool may move toward other body parts that are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

One way to prevent accidental startups, according to McGill, is the company’s Sensing-Safti-Gard motor control. A built-in sensor blocks the control from resetting until the equipment switch has been turned off. Designed for use with equipment and tools driven by small motors operating on 120 Vac or 240 Vac (single phase), these motor controls are ideal for replacing old, frayed, or ungrounded power cords.