1.1.6 Hand and portable power tools

Hand tools are non-powered or operate only through physical exertion by hand.

Some examples of hand tools include anvils, axes, chisels, files, hammers, hand boring tools, planes, pliers, punches, saws, scissors, screw drivers, tin snips, and wrenches. Hazards associated with hand tools result from misuse and improper maintenance.

Hand Tool Safety

To prevent injury, follow the guidelines listed below:

  • Hand tools must be used for their intended purpose. For example, if a screwdriver is used as a chisel, the tip of the screwdriver may break and fly off, hitting the user or other employees.
  • Inspect tools for damage prior to use
  • Hand tools must be maintained in good condition free of damage. For example, wooden handles on tools, such as a hammer or an axe, must be tight and free from splinters or cracks.
  • Bent screwdrivers or screwdrivers with chipped edges must be replaced
  • Always direct tools such as knives, saw blades, etc. away from aisle areas and away from other employees working in close proximity
  • Knives and scissors must be sharp; dull tools can cause more hazards than sharp ones
  • Cracked saw blades must be removed from service
  • Wrenches must not be used when jaws are sprung to the point that slippage occurs
  • Impact tools such as drift pins, wedges, and chisels must be kept free of mushroomed heads
  • Iron or steel hand tools may produce sparks that can be an ignition source around flammable substances. Spark-resistant tools made of non-ferrous materials should be used where flammable gases, highly volatile liquids, and other explosive substances are stored or used.
  • Keep the work area and tools clean. Dirty, greasy tools and floor may cause accidents
  • Tools must be stored in a dry secure location
  • Carry and store tools properly. All sharp tools must be carried and stored with the sharp edge down. Do not carry sharp tools in a pocket.
  • Wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE)

Power Tools

Power tools, both mounted and portable, are tools that require a power source to operate. There are several types of portable power tools, based on the power source they use: electric, pneumatic, liquid fuel, hydraulic, explosive-actuated, and powder-actuated.

Examples of regulated portable power tools are portable abrasive wheels and grinders, lawn mowers, powered drills, portable circular saws, portable belt sanding machines, explosive-actuated fastening tools, jacks, and abrasive blast cleaning nozzles.

According to Government Notice: R: 1593 Electrical Machinery Regulations, 1988:

9.  (1)  No user shall permit the use of and no person shall use a portable electric tool the operating voltage of which exceeds 50 to earth unless –

(a)  it is connected to a source of electrical energy incorporating an earth leakage protection device, the construction of which meets the requirements of a safety standard incorporated for this purpose in these regulations under section 36 of the Act; or

(b)  it is connected to a source of electrical energy through the interposition between each tool and the source of an individually double-wound isolating transformer, the secondary winding of which is not earthed at any point and the construction of which meets the requirements of a safety standard incorporated for this purpose in these regulations under section 36 of the Act; or

(c)  it is connected to a source of high frequency electrical energy derived from a generator which is used solely for supplying energy to such portable electric tool and which arrangement is approved by the chief inspector; or

(d)  it is clearly marked that it is constructed with double or reinforced insulation.

(2)  No person shall sell a portable electric tool constructed with double or reinforced insulation referred to in sub-regulation (1) (d) unless –

(a)  it is clearly marked that it is constructed with such insulation; and

(b)  its insulation is constructed in accordance with a safety standard incorporated for this purpose in these regulations under section 36 of the Act.

(3)  No person shall use or permit the use of a portable electric tool which is not fitted with a switch to allow for easy and safe starting and stopping of the tool.

(4)  The user shall maintain every portable electric tool, together with its flexible cord and plug, in a serviceable condition.

Offences and penalties

23.  Any person who contravenes or fails to comply with a provision of regulations 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 or 22(1) shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding R1 000 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months and, in the case of a continuous offence, to an additional fine of R5 or to additional imprisonment of one day for each day on which the offence continues: Provided that the period of such additional imprisonment shall in no case exceed 90 days

With the Construction regulations, 2003 adding the following requirements about Construction Sites:

Electrical installations and machinery on construction sites

22.Notwithstanding the provisions contained in the Electrical Installation Regulations promulgated by Government Notice No.R.2920 of 23 October 1992 and the Electrical Machinery Regulations promulgated by Government Notice No. R.1593 of 12 August 1988, respectively, as amended, a contractor shall ensure that¾

(a)     before construction commences and during the progress thereof, adequate steps are taken to ascertain the presence of and guard against danger to workers from any electrical cable or apparatus which is under, over or on the site;

(b)          all parts of electrical installations and machinery are of adequate strength to withstand the working conditions on construction sites;

(c)     in working areas where the exact location of underground electric power lines is unknown, employees using jackhammers, shovels or other hand tools which may make contact with a power line, are provided with insulated protective gloves or otherwise that the handle of the tool being used is insulated;

(d)               all temporary electrical installations are inspected at least once a week and electrical machinery on a daily basis before use on a construction site by competent persons and the records of these inspections are recorded in a register to be kept on site; and

(e)              the control of all temporary electrical installations on the construction site is designated to a competent person who has been appointed in writing.  

Use and Care of Power Tools

Power tools must be equipped with guards and safety switches. They can be hazardous when used improperly. Types of power tools are determined by their power source: electric, pneumatic, liquid fuel, hydraulic, and powder-actuated.

To prevent hazards associated with the use of power tools, workers should observe the following general precautions:

  • Read the owner’s manual to understand the tool’s proper applications, limitations, operation, and hazards
  • Never carry a tool by the cord or hose
  • Never yank the cord or the hose to disconnect it from the receptacle
  • Keep cords and hoses away from heat, oil, and sharp edges
  • Ensure tools are properly grounded; use Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) for corded tools
  • Disconnect tools when not using them, before servicing and cleaning, and when changing accessories such as blades, bits, and cutters
  • Keep all people not involved with the work at a safe distance from the work area
  • Secure work with clamps or a vice, freeing both hands to operate the tool
  • Avoid accidental starting. Do not hold fingers on the switch button while carrying a plugged-in tool
  • Maintain tools sharp and clean
  • Be sure to keep good footing and maintain good balance when operating power tools
  • Wear proper apparel for the task. Loose clothing, ties, or jewellery can become caught in moving parts
  • Inspect tools for damage before each use. Remove all damaged portable electric tools from use and tag them: “Do Not Use”

Electric Tools

Electric tools may cause electrical burns and shocks. To prevent the user from electrocution, electric tools must have a three-wire cord with a ground and be plugged into a grounded receptacle, be double insulated, or be powered by a low voltage isolation transformer to protect from burns and shocks. Three-wire cords contain two current carrying conductors and a grounding conductor. When an adapter is used to accommodate a two-hole receptacle, the adapter wire must be attached to a known ground. The third prong must never be removed from the plug.

Double-insulated tools are available that provide protection against electrical shock without third-wire grounding. On double insulated tools, an internal layer of protective insulation completely isolates the external housing of the tool.

The following general practices should be followed when using electric tools:

  • Operate electric tools within their design limitations
  • Use gloves and appropriate safety footwear when using electric tools
  • Store electric tools in a dry place when not in use
  • Do not use electric tools in damp or wet locations unless they are approved for that purpose
  • Keep work areas well lighted when operating electric tools
  • Ensure that cords from electric tools do not present a tripping hazard

Pneumatic Tools

Pneumatic tools are powered by compressed air and include chippers, drills, hammers, and sanders. Some hazards associated with pneumatic tools include noise, vibration, fatigue, and strains. Additional hazards are described below:

  • The greatest hazard is being hit by one of the tool’s attachments or by a fastener used with the tool. Eye protection must be worn for employees working with pneumatic tools.
  • Pneumatic tools must be checked to ensure that they are fastened securely to the air hose to prevent them from becoming disconnected. A short wire or positive locking device attaching the air hose to the tool must also be used and will serve as an added safeguard.
  • If an air hose is more 13 mm in diameter, a safety excess flow valve must be installed at the source of the air supply to shut off the air automatically in case the hose breaks
  • When using pneumatic tools, a safety clip or retainer must be installed to prevent attachments such as chisels on a chipping hammer from being ejected during tool operation
  • Pneumatic tools that shoot nails, rivets, staples, or similar fasteners and operate at pressures more than 690 kilopascals must be equipped with a special device to keep fasteners from being ejected, unless the muzzle is pressed against the work surface
  • Airless spray guns that atomize paints and fluids at pressures of 6895 kilopascals must be equipped with automatic or visible manual safety devices that will prevent pulling the trigger until the safety device is manually released
  • Screens must be set up to protect nearby workers from being struck by flying fragments around chippers, riveting guns, staplers, or air drills
  • Compressed air guns should never be pointed toward anyone. Workers should never “dead-end” them against themselves or anyone else

Liquid Fuel Powered Tools

Fuel-powered tools are usually operated with gasoline. The most serious hazard associated with the use of fuel-powered tools is from fuel vapours that can burn or explode and also give off dangerous exhaust fumes. Fuel must be handled, transported, and stored only in approved flammable liquid containers, according to proper procedures for flammable liquids. Before refilling a fuel-powered tool tank, shut down the engine and allow it to cool to prevent accidental ignition of hazardous vapours. When a fuel-powered tool is used inside a closed area, effective ventilation and/or proper respirators such as atmosphere-supplying respirators must be utilized to avoid breathing carbon monoxide.

Fire extinguishers must also be available in the area.

Hydraulic Power Tools

The fluid used in hydraulic power tools must be an approved fire-resistant fluid and must retain its operating characteristics at the most extreme temperatures to which it will be exposed. The exception to fire-resistant fluid involves all hydraulic fluids used for the insulated sections of derrick trucks, aerial lifts, and hydraulic tools that are used on or around energized lines. This hydraulic fluid shall be of the insulating type.

The manufacturer’s has recommended safe operating pressure for hoses, valves, pipes, filters, and other fittings must not be exceeded.

All jacks – including lever and ratchet jacks, screw jacks, and hydraulic jacks – must have a stop indicator, and the stop limit must not be exceeded. Also, the manufacturer’s load limit must be permanently marked in a prominent place on the jack, and the load limit must not be exceeded.

A jack should never be used to support a lifted load. Once the load has been lifted, it must immediately be blocked up. Place a block under the base of the jack when the foundation is not firm, and place a block between the jack caps and load if the cap might slip.

To set up a jack:

  • The base of the jack must rest on a firm, level surface
  • The jack must be correctly cantered
  • The jack head must bear against a level surface
  • The lift force must be applied evenly

All jacks must be lubricated regularly. Each jack must be inspected according to the following schedule:

  • For jacks used continuously or intermittently at one site – inspected at least once every 6 months
  • For jacks sent out of the shop for special work – inspected when sent out and inspected when returned
  • For jacks subjected to abnormal loads or shock – inspected before use and immediately thereafter

Operating Controls and Switches

The following hand-held power tools must be equipped with a constant-pressure switch or control that shuts off the power when pressure is released:

  • Drills
  • Tappers
  • Fastener drivers
  • Horizontal, vertical, and angle grinders with wheels more than 50mm in diameter
  • Disc sanders with discs greater than 50mm
  • Belt sanders
  • Reciprocating saws
  • Saber saws, scroll saws, and jigsaws with blade shanks greater than 6mm wide
  • Other similar tools

These tools also may be equipped with a “lock-on” control, if it allows the worker to also shut off the control in a single motion using the same finger or fingers.

The following hand-held power tools must be equipped with a positive “on-off” control switch, a constant pressure switch, or a “lock-on” control:

  • Disc sanders with discs 50mm or less in diameter
  • Grinders with wheels 50mm or less in diameter
  • Platen sanders, routers, planers, laminate trimmers, nibblers, shears, and scroll saws
  • Jigsaws, saber, and scroll saws with blade shanks a nominal 6mm or less in diameter