Give Yourself a Hand: Stay Safe When Using Power Tools!

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Don Laub, MD, a plastic surgeon at Fletcher Allen, is interim division chief of Plastic Surgery and a professor at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.

As a plastic surgeon, I see people with many kinds of injuries resulting from the use of home power tools come into the Emergency Department. Home power tools make do-it-yourself projects easier, faster, and more enjoyable, but they can also be the cause of serious injuries. 

Most of these injuries can be prevented by attention to a few simple precautions:

  • Read instruction manuals that came with the tool.
  • Use the right tool for the job. Using the wrong type of tool can damage the materials or injure you.
  • Use proper lighting: If the light is not bright enough, use extra lights.
  • Do not carry tools by their cords.
  • When a tool is not being used, disconnect it from the wall plug.
  • When you are handling tools that are plugged in, keep your fingers away from the on/off switch.
  • Never disconnect a power by pulling on the cord.
  • Keep power tool cords away from heat, oil, sharp edges or moving parts and replace damaged cords immediately.  

Protect your eyes: ALWAYS wear eye protection, preferably-impact resistant safety glasses.  Wearing safety glasses prevents debris from getting into your eyes.  

Protect your hearing Invest in a pair of earplugs. Even the best power tools can be loud, especially in a garage or workshop environment.

Protect your body: Don’t wear loose clothing or jewelry while using a power tool.  Long hair should be tied back or tucked under a shirt collar.  Keep body parts away from the moving parts of the power tool.

Keep your work area clean:

  • Maintaining a clean work area will help to reduce the accumulation of dust particles, which can be ignited with a spark.
  • Keep flammable liquids away from the power tools.
  • Practice good housekeeping: clutter can result in tangled cords, piles of debris, and accidents.

Use clamps when securing your work pieces to be cut or drilled.  Use extra caution with more dangerous power tools, such as table saws and routers. They should be used with a quick-release clamp and a wood push-through.  A push-through stick is a second piece of wood to push the wood that you are actually cutting through the saw; if that piece were to seize up in the blade or kick back, it’s better to damage a piece of wood rather that your hand!

Keep power tools away from people not familiar with power tool safety. Store power tools in a safe place, especially away from where children can reach.

For additional power tool safety information, the US OSHA website is a good source:

Donald Laub, MD, is a plastic surgeon and interim division chief, Plastic Surgery, at Fletcher Allen, and Professor at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.

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