Safety with Hand and Power Tools

Kent McGuire – OSU Ag Safety and Health Coordinator

Now that harvest season is wrapping up, it is time to start planning for those projects or repairs that need to be completed before winter sets in. Most of these projects will involve the use of hand or power tools. Common injuries associated with hand and power tools include cuts, burns, blunt trauma or flying debris, as well as health hazards associated from dust or fumes. Below are safety considerations when working with hand and power tools.

General Safety Guidelines:
- Use tools that are the right size and right type for the job.
- Operate all tools according to the manufacturers’ instructions and recommendations.
- Use appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to prevent injury during use of the tool.
- Keep all tools in good condition with proper storage and regular maintenance.
- Examine each tool for damage before use.
- Secure small or short work with a vise or clamp.
- Avoid leaving tools on an elevated work area or hanging over the edge of a workbench where they could fall.
Hand Tools (any tool not self-powered: hammer, screwdriver, handsaw, shovel, ax):
- Inspect hand tools for any damage. Replace any worn, bent, cracked or damaged handles.
- Only use tools with insulated handles on electrical projects.
- When using cutting tools, cut away from the body.
- Make sure saw or knife blades are sharp to promote efficient use of the hand tool.
- Keep impact tools such as punches or chisels free of mushroomed heads.
- Keep edges of large tools such as shovels or axes sharp.
- Avoid laying large handled tools flat on the ground or with sharp edges or points up.
Power Tools (electric, pneumatic, or gasoline powered):
- Disconnect power tools when not in use or when changing blades, grinding wheels or drill bits.
- Inspect electrical cords before use and replace any damaged cords.
- Never carry a tool by the cord or unplug by “yanking” the plug out of the outlet.
- Do not hold finger on the power button or switch to avoid unintentional starting.
- Make sure machine guards are in place and functional.
- Do not use electrical power tools in wet or damp conditions.
- Keep a good footing and maintain balance when operating power tools.
- Consider specific PPE needed when working with “hot work” tools such as welders or torches.
- Make sure pneumatic tools are properly oiled and hoses / connections are free from damage.
- Make sure air hoses on the ground do not become trip hazards.
- Ensure that all safety switches work properly.
- Work with gasoline power equipment only in properly ventilated areas.
- Clean up the work area after the project is complete. Remove any dust, debris, metal shavings, cutting oil, or any other materials from the workspace.

For more information about the OSU Ag Safety Program visit or contact Kent McGuire, OSU Agricultural Safety & Health, at or 614-292-0588.