Tool Safety for DIYers

Get into good storage habits and do regular maintenance to extend the life of your tools and avoid accidents

Tool Safety, Handyman Magazine, DIY

Every DIYer needs to know how to stay safe in the workshop

Working with hand and power tools can be dangerous, especially if the equipment is not properly maintained. 

If a saw is dull or a drill bit is blunted, you have to use more force to get the job done, which can cause tools to wander off course and lead to nasty cuts or other injuries. 

DIY safely by keeping tools in good nick and following a few commonsense safety rules. Ban kids and pets from work areas, avoid any distractions, don’t over-exert yourself and always work at a steady pace.

Storage and maintenance

Look after your tools and store them carefully for many years of service.

Give every tool a home by keeping them in assigned places where they won’t be damaged by other items. 

Store cutting tools where their sharp edges won’t be blunted, and where they won’t damage other tools or your fingers. Many tools should also be kept out of reach of children. 

To prevent rust, store your kit in a dry place and spray a rust-inhibiting coating on steel tools or put a few packets of clay or silicone desiccant in the toolbox or cabinet. 

Packets of desiccant come with most new tools and with many other household purchases, including new shoes and furniture. 

Protect saws and chisels by storing them in blade covers. This prevents the tools from being damaged or from causing you damage when you’re rummaging in your toolbox looking for something else. 

If the tools don’t come with blade protectors, make your own. Buy plastic report cover spines from a stationery shop and slide them over the teeth of your saws, or cut slits into tennis balls and slip them over chisel blades.

Keep tools dry because moisture can rust a blade or warp a timber handle. If a tool gets wet, wipe it with a soft, dry cloth before storing it. 

If it’s sweaty or greasy, clean the tool with a damp cloth then wipe it with a clean, dry cloth. 

Avoid oiling hand tools. If oil gets on the handle, your grip might slip and you could be injured. If you have a number of chisels to store, it’s worth investing in a roll-up leather case.

Keep cutting tools sharp and clean to help prevent accidents. Never let them get damaged or dull and if they’re past repair, replace them. 

To tell whether a handsaw needs attention, examine its blade under a magnifying glass. If the teeth are rounded, look online for a saw and blade sharpening service near you. 

For a saw clogged with resin from cutting soft timber, use oven cleaner then spray the blade with silicone.

Minimising risks 

Before working with flammable or toxic substances like paint or PVC cement, turn off any gas pilot lights in the room, open windows and use a fan to ensure proper ventilation. Don’t smoke and have a fire extinguisher at hand. 

Only buy as much flammable or toxic material as you need for the job in hand, no matter how great the saving might be for buying in bulk. Dispose of leftovers as recommended by the manufacturer, or contact your local council for advice on how to get rid of excess product.

Power tool safety

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for maintaining and operating power tools. 

If you have lost the owner’s manual, check the manufacturer’s website as they usually have the manuals for all products.

Follow this general advice for working safely with most power tools.

Keep them unplugged whenever they aren’t in use and disconnect the batteries of cordless tools. Many accidents happen by brushing against the on/off switch of a tool and accidentally turning it on.

Avoid clogged air vents which can cause the tool to overheat. If vents do become blocked, clear them with compressed air or a vacuum cleaner. 

Minimise dust or sawdust when working by attaching the dust collection bag that is usually provided with the tool. This will not only
help with the clean up but also reduces the chances of a fire.

Treatt cordless tools well by using only batteries and chargers designed for the unit.

Check the forecast before charging batteries and unplug in temperatures below 4°C or over 40°C. Batteries rely on chemical reactions that slow down in cold weather and cease altogether when it’s very hot. High temperatures cause battery packs to degrade much faster than normal.

Wearing safety gear 

When you’re using tools or machinery, always wear sturdy shoes with slip-proof soles. Roll up your sleeves and tie back long hair.

Keep hands free by carrying tools in a belt or a bucket and use the appropriate safety equipment.

Wear heavy work gloves for jobs that can hurt hands and rubber gloves for handling toxic materials.

Don’t wear gloves for cutting or drilling as the tool could slip.

Protect eyes with goggles when filing, grinding, or doing any work involving dust or flying chips.

Use a dust mask when sanding or doing other work that might create particles that could irritate your respiratory system. 

Use a respirator if you’re going to be subjected to harmful vapours or fibres, such as from insulation. The best ones have interchangeable cartridges to filter the harmful effects of toxic dust and fumes from materials like paints and adhesives.

Protect ears when using a loud power tool by wearing earmuffs or using foam earplugs.

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