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Safety Check: Hand Operated Power Tool and Pneumatic Nailer and Fastener Safety
Pallet Enterprise’s safety consultant explains best safety practices when it comes to powered hand tools, especially nail guns.
By Jary Winstead
Date Posted: 10/1/2016
Hand-operated power tools have increased productivity ever since their invention. Hand saws, staple guns and hammers have been made nearly obsolete in most industries. The pallet industry uses a lot of hand tools, especially nail guns and sawzalls. These tools have made cutting, shaping, fastening and finishing much faster and easier, but this comes at a cost.
While working as an Emergency Medical Technician, I can recall countless ambulance responses to injuries from hand-operated power tools; severe cuts, avulsions, puncture and penetration injuries were all too common. As an example, let’s look at power operated saws; a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s analysis estimated that there were 52,000 injuries in a calendar year. And 83% of those injuries were to fingers and hands.
Let’s take the pneumatic nailers and fasteners for another example, the nailer and fastener has increased productivity by estimations of 400- 800%. According to government labor and safety figures, it is estimated that pneumatic nailer and fastener injuries account for as much as 42,000 injuries a year in the construction industry.
So, the question is; how can we utilize these highly productive tools and still reduce workplace injuries? Due to the human operator factor, this requires continuous training and observation by management.
Hand-operated power tool accidents can be prevented. Through proper safety training, point of operation guarding, safe tool operation, and the use of personal protective equipment, most injuries can be prevented.
Personal Protective Equipment
Once engineering controls have been made, and safety procedures have been put into place to reduce hazardous exposures, employees must use personal protective equipment to further reduce their exposures to hazards in the workplace.
Eye Protection: Hand operated power tools can create hazards due to airborne particles such as wood splinters, fasteners, chips and dust. Therefore, it is essential that the employees operating and working in the area of tool operation wear approved eye protection.
There are many different types of eye protection available. The design, construction, testing, and use of protective eyewear must comply with American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z87.1-1989. This standard requires that the manufacturer’s monogram to appear on each lens and a “Z87” to appear on all component parts. The main difference between safety glasses and regular glasses is impact resistance. Prescription glasses will not provide this kind of protection. A pair of regular glasses, prescription or otherwise, cannot be fitted with side shields and meet ANSI standards. The lenses must be impact resistant according to the (ANSI) Z87.1-1989.
Hearing Protection: Permanent hearing loss can be expected at decibels around 85 and above. Power operated tools can reach decibel levels of 90 and above, which is measured over an 8-hour work period. Therefore, in order to protect the hearing of employees, all persons working with these tools, as well as those working in the area where these tools are being operated, need to wear prescribed hearing protection.
All power-operated tools, whether powered by alternating current, battery, gasoline, or compressed air must be inspected prior to the daily operation, and the operator must assure that the tool continues to meet those inspection requirements throughout the day. When a tool fails, breaks, or otherwise becomes unsafe to operate, the tool must be taken out of service immediately.
The following are key points of a tool inspection:
• Visually inspect tools for damage, excessive wear, cracks, or loose parts to the tool’s operational components, body and housing.
• Power cords must be inspected for cracks, damage or fraying of the cords outer insulation.
• All point of operation guarding must be in-place, operational and never ever modified.
• When guarding is adjustable, guarding must be adjusted to OSHA Standards and the manufacturer’s specifications.
• All blades must be sharp, and replaced when not cutting quickly and smoothly. When blades vibrate, leave black marks on the cutting surface or smoke, they must be replaced.
• Stationary tools must be tightly secured to the work surface.
• All portable power driven circular saws with blade diameter greater than 2" must be equipped with guards above and below the base plate or shoe.
• The upper guard on a circular saw must cover the saw blade to the depth of the teeth, except for the minimum arc required to permit the base to be tilted for bevel cuts.
• The lower guard on a circular saw must cover the saw to the depth of the teeth, except for the minimum arc required to allow proper retraction and contact with the work.
• When a circular saw is removed from the material being sawed, the lower guard must automatically and instantly return to the covering position.
• Compressed air supply systems must be of approved materials, leak free and undamaged.
Pneumatic Nailers and Fasteners
When used in an unsafe manner, pneumatic hand-operated power tools can cause serious injury or even death. Complying with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Standards is imperative in order to have a safe working environment. Read the list of power tool tips in the accompanying sidebar article on the next page.
Proper gear and operation of power tools are the responsibility of every company and employee. You need to have a training program in place to ensure that everything is done properly and document the successful completion of each training class. Powered tools, especially nailers are critical for production, and you need to make sure that they are used properly because they are the source of many injuries in the pallet industry if not handled as intended by the manufacturer.
Editor’s Note: Jary Winstead is a safety consultant, author and trainer who serves a variety of industries including the forest products sector. He owns Work Safety Services LLC and can be reached at email@example.com.
Safety Rules for Hand Operated Power Tools and Pneumatic Nailers and Fasteners
The following is a list of safety rules, that when followed, will prevent most injuries from occurring:
Hand-operated Power Tools
• Report all hazards, close calls and accidents to your supervisor immediately. Complete a Close Call, Hazard, and Accident Report form.
• Never allow the operation of any tool or equipment without operational safety training being provided first.
• When employees are unsure, or unfamiliar of the tools they will be operating, they must request training from their supervisor.
• Always follow the owner’s manual to understand safe operation and maintenance of the tools you will be using.
• Always wear safety glasses. All safety glasses must be ANSI approved.
• Always wear hearing protection.
• Stationary tools must be secured to a surface, or mounted, to prevent movement during operation.
• Tools powered by internal combustion engines, must run smoothly, and the exhaust system must be operating to manufacturer specifications.
• When extension cords are used, the cord must be approved for the electrical amperage of the tool that it is supplying.
• All portable equipment, appliances, and power tools should have a 3-prong plug or a manufacturer’s label stating that it is double insulated.
• When tools are stored, the cord should be wrapped so that the cord isn’t under strain where it enters the tool.
• If a tool repeatedly blows a fuse, trips a circuit breaker, or if it has given you a shock, it must be taken out of service.
• Never carry a power tool or appliance by the cord. When unplugging, always pull the plug-end and not the cord. Pulling on the cord may damage the wires and insulation, possibly leading to electrical shock and fire.
Pneumatic Nailers and Fasteners
• Always use the nailer or fastener in sequential trip mode.
• Never point a nailer or fastener towards yourself or anyone else, even if it doesn’t contain nails or is disconnected from the air supply.
• Always make sure the area behind the nailing surface is clear of people.
• Never hold down the trigger unless the nose of the nailer or fastener is pressed against the item to be nailed.
• Always disconnect the nailer’s or fastener’s air supply when leaving it unattended, clearing jammed nails or performing any other maintenance.
• Never use a nailer or fastener that is defective, for example, with a cracked or damaged housing, loose bolts, screws or fittings.
• Inspect replacement nails or fasteners for proper fit and damage before inserting them into the nailer or fastener.
• Follow the directions in the operator’s manual to clear jammed nails or fasteners.
• Only allow an authorized person to complete tool repairs or maintenance.
• Always hold the tool away from the body while carrying it.
• Keep guards and other safety devices on nailers and fasteners working in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
• Never modify or make inoperative the safety contact tip, safety devices, or guards of a pneumatic nailer or fastener.
• Always assume that the nailer or fastener is loaded and contains fasteners.
• Never carry the tool with your finger on or under the trigger; always remove your finger from the trigger area when not driving nails or fasteners.
• Drive nails or fasteners into the work surface only, never into materials that are too hard to penetrate.
• Do not drive nails or fasteners close to the edge of the work surface, on top of other nails or fasteners or with the tool at too steep an angle, which could cause the nails or fasteners to ricochet and hurt someone.
• Remove all nails or fasteners from the tool before connecting it to the air compressor and do not exceed the manufacturers’ recommended working air pressure rating.
• Securely fasten the air hose to the tool to prevent it from becoming disconnected.
• Never use the air hose to carry or hoist the tool.
• Always use compressed air to operate the tool. Never use compressed gas or bottled gas to operate the tool.
• Nails and fasteners should not be corroded or rusty; this will cause the nailer or fastener to jam or otherwise malfunction.
• Keep pneumatic nailers and fasteners away from other people and children.
• To assure the nailer or fastener will operate correctly and safely, always follow the manufactures’ recommendations for maintenance.
• Never place your hand directly behind the surface that will be nailed or stapled. Your free hand should be a minimum of 1 foot or 30 centimeters away.
• Using the tool around flammable objects should always be avoided.