Working Safely with Hand Tools

Many workers commonly use non-powered hand tools on a daily basis. Examples of non-powered hand tools include hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers, chisels and more. The hazards involved with these tools may be overlooked, but the misuse of hand tools in work settings can contribute to musculoskeletal disorders and cause injury. These injuries can be reduced by following these general safety tips.

Safety Tips for Using Hand Tools

  1. Buy quality hand tools.
    Many tools, including cutters and hammers, should be made of steel and should be heat-treated.
  2. Regularly inspect tools.
    Inspect your hand tools to make sure they are in good shape and fit for use. Check them for damage and report damaged tools to your supervisor.
  3. Perform regular maintenance.
    Maintain the integrity of your hand tools by grinding or sharpening regularly. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Dress for the job.
    Avoid loose clothing or articles that can get caught in a tool’s moving parts such as jewelry and neckties. Tie back long hair for the same reason.
  5. Wear personal protective equipment.
    Leather gloves, eye protection, etc. are important to your overall safety when using hand tools. Ensure you are wearing appropriate protective equipment correctly before beginning a project.
  6. Think about the job you will be doing before you select a hand tool.
    Using a tool for something other than its intended purpose can cause you pain and/or injury.

Select the best tool that:

  • Fits the job you are doing
  • Fits the work space available
  • Reduces the force you need to apply
  • Fits your hands
  • Can be used in a comfortable work position

The best tools to use for the job are:

  • Without sharp edges or finger grooves on the handle
  • Coated with soft material
  • Have an angle that allows work to be performed with a straight wrist
  • Can be operated with either hand
  • Has a non-slip surface for a better grip

Additional Safety Tips When Using Hand Tools

When using hand tools, make sure that your footing is stable and both feet are planted on a solid surface. Be aware of the people around you and make sure they stay clear of the tools you are using. Never carry tools up a ladder by hand. Instead, use a bucket or bag to hoist tools from the ground to the worker. Never leave tools unsecured when working at heights where they could present a hazard to workers below. Secure work with a clamp or vise to keep it from slipping, when appropriate. Never carry pointed tools in your pocket; transport them in a toolbox or cart instead. Pass a tool to another person by the handle; never toss it to them. Make sure tools are stored in a safe place. Clean the tool and return it to its proper storage place after using.

Society’s risk management team can help your business identify and eliminate key risk areas. Contact your local Society Insurance agent to learn more about how Society can protect your business.


Blair has a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in Occupational Safety. He completed graduate work at The College of Insurance in New York City, which has since merged with St. Johns University's School of Risk Management. Blair's work experience includes three years in Occupational Health & Safety and the past 18 years in Risk Control.

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