So you received a new power tool for the holidays? Let’s be careful out there

Electric hand tools are fabulous.

They let you get building projects done more quickly and accurately, and they help you produce professional results and true satisfaction with a job well done whether you’re renovating your home, fixing a porch swing or building hand-made furniture.

At the same time, though, they can be dangerous if used improperly or without the correct safeguards.

The hazards of the  “10 Most Dangerous Power Tools” were highlighted recently in a story in Forbes magazine,  just in time for the holidays.  Lots of power tools were given as gifts during the holidays,  so it’s a good time to take a fresh look at their risks.

Construction worker using a circular saw to cut a concrete block.

A construction worker uses an electric circular saw to cut a concrete block. Image credit: ©

A case we are currently handling was featured in the story — that of a local carpenter who was using a power nail gun to install a joist hanger.  The nail missed the hole in the hanger, deflected off the metal hanger and struck the carpenter in the mouth, knocking out three of his teeth.  The story also mentioned other serious injuries caused by power tools, including several fatalities caused by electric saws and power drills.  Some 418,000 emergency room visits were caused by injuries from power tools in the U.S. in 2001, according to a 2003 report — which are the latest statistics available from the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission

None of these incidents, of course, mean that people shouldn’t use such tools, but they should certainly serve as reminders to use caution,  proper eye protection, work gloves and other means to make safety a priority whenever operating power tools.

And manufacturers of the products have key responsibilities, too, in making sure that the tools have built-in safety systems whenever possible, including guards, quick-stop blades and other mechanisms.  If injuries are caused by poorly designed or manufactured tools, then users who are injured are eligible to sue for damages for their injuries, loss of income and pain and suffering.

In the workplace, many rules and regulations exist to protect workers from injuries from power tools and other hazards in the workplace.  Among the key regulations are those from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) in the U.S. Department of Labor, which outline safety tips, tool use help and other advice for protecting workers from injuries on the job.

Be sure you take precautions and use only quality tools and hardware from reputable companies when engaging in your own building and home improvement projects.  Carefully read operating manuals that come with your tools.  Know how the tools work and what precautions are involved.  Don’t use a tool for a procedure for which it wasn’t designed.  And never use broken or defective tools, such as those with frayed or damaged electrical cords, because you are in a rush to get a job done and can’t stop to replace your equipment.

Avoiding an emergency room visit, serious injuries  and a potential lawsuit are all good things to remember at the start of the new year.

So get to work, but let’s be careful out there.