Preventing home improvement tool injuries

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ September 19, 2011

The difference between completing a home improvement project with pride or ending up in an emergency room with a severed hand can be the variance of a single millimeter and a half-second of time. Motorized saws cut extremely well, and most don't distinguish sheet metal from a forearm. Nail guns shoot right where they're aimed, whether it's at a stud or a homeowner's cheek. If you regard yourself beyond the need for silly eye protection goggles, be sure to pay your health care premiums.

Forbes Magazine estimates that there are 400,000 workshop casualties every year that end up in visits to the emergency room. Common mistakes, Forbes says, are caused by operator error, rather than tool failure. Common mistakes include foregoing goggles, working while fatigued, disabling tool-safety features, improper clamping of materials, and pretending that ricochets are a figment of your imagination.

Take tool safety seriously

Even if you've bought top-of-the-line products in assembling your home repair toolkit, don't assume tool quality automatically protects you against inevitable lapses in judgment.

Even if you consider yourself a seasoned home improvement maharishi, take a few moments to review the tool safely maintenance checklist assembled by the Power Tool Institute. I bet it will raise an eyebrow or two out there!

    • Ask yourself how often you run electrical safety tests using a ground fault circuit interrupter.

    • Do you routinely check power cords for defects, fraying, or cuts in the line?

    • When working with an abrasive cut-off or dry-cut machine, do you routinely check wheels and teeth for chips or damage? When you give it a spin to check for clearance and alignment, do you unplug the machine first?

    Don't laugh; America's emergency room nurses routinely attend to people that race right into their project without a second thought for safety.

    Setting circular and band saws properly

    Before you work, don't cut corners if you're lazy, in a hurry, or just don't want to be bothered by buying a new blade for a simple job. Letting the motor run after a cut not only burns energy, but it heats the blade, creating the chance of warping and kickbacks.

    If your circular saw is just too heavy for you to control with precision, back away! Always use clean saw blades, removing any pitch or sap before attempting another cut. Be sure the blade speed as marked is as high as the no load revolutions per minute that's marked on the tool.

    And never, please, hold your work piece by hand when a clamp will do nicely. Whatever are you thinking?

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