Loss Control Insights

5 Key Components to Keep Power Tools Working

power tool injury sign

You probably already know the drill: Keeping your company’s power tools in good condition is good business. If tools are functioning properly, your employees can perform their jobs efficiently without stopping mid-task to make adjustments or repairs.

Beyond creating a more efficient working environment, well-maintained tools are safer and less likely to cause injuries. For instance, a dull blade or frayed power cord might seem like no big deal, but these imperfections can lead to kickback or electrical shock.

Taking care of these 5 key tool components—providing routine maintenance and correcting problems as soon as possible—will increase the life of the tool and keep workers safer.

1. Care for Cords—Cords are critical components needing attention. A tool maintenance checklist should include checking cords for loose power connections, examining for cracks and worn areas, and testing for flexibility. For safety, cords should be unplugged when tools aren’t in use and during servicing.

Employees should care for cords as part of their work routine by:
  • Carefully unplugging, not yanking, the cord from the receptacle
  • Avoiding raising and lowering the tool by the cord
  • Ensuring the cord doesn’t get caught or tangled when operating the tool
  • Protecting the cord from heat, oil and sharp edges
  • Keeping cords out of walkways to prevent tripping

If using an extension cord, keep the length to a minimum and make sure it’s sized correctly (wire gauge). When working outside, use an extension cord rated for outdoor use that has a GFCI.

2. Keep Grounding Prongs Intact—Most portable electric tools are either double insulated or contain grounding prongs as protection from electrocution. In double insulated tools, exposed metals are separated from electrically live components by insulation. If the tool has three-wire grounding, safety measures include:

  • Keeping the third prong intact and always plugging the cord into a grounded outlet
  • Checking the plug before use to be sure no live wires are exposed

3. Replace Bits and Blades—Portable electric power tools are only as good as the bits or blades installed. Low-quality or worn bits and blades require more effort to get the job done, which affects productivity. Damaged or dull bits and blades can also cause injuries from breakage and kickback.

A maintenance checklist should include stocking and labeling the right sizes in a convenient location for ease in swapping out bits and blades. Use only manufacturer-recommended parts to ensure pieces fit onto the tool correctly and are safe to use. Blades and bits should be checked before and after use for sharpness, warping, chipping and bending. Before cutting or drilling, test that the tool is up for the job; don’t force bits or blades into material that is too hard for the bit or blade to handle.

4. Guard Tools—Guards are usually provided by the manufacturer, but if in doubt, guard any part that might pull clothing or a body part (such as fingers or hair) into the machine or that might fling particles out. Do not tamper with any guards installed by the manufacturer. Replace any broken guards according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Keep replacements on hand and make them readily accessible. Ensure that guards are those recommended by the tool manufacturer and are attached correctly. Guards should always be in place when the tool is plugged in and when operating.

5. Assign Cleaning and Storage—Tools with electrical parts are susceptible to wear and tear, so frequent maintenance helps extend their life and improves safety.

Regular cleaning keeps tools in good condition. Workers might also notice any loose parts, dings, exposed wires or other potential problems during cleaning.

Provide employees with a daily maintenance checklist so they can keep tools in tip-top condition, and also supply a periodic cleaning and checkup schedule for items that don’t need daily attention.

It should be clear to all workers that every maintenance task starts with unplugging the tool or removing batteries. A visual inspection of the tool and components is a good next step; the employee might notice chips, loose screws or off-kilter moving parts. Your procedures should cover the manufacturer’s recommendations for how to clean and service the tool, check moving parts, change filters, use approved cleaning products and other important details.

Tools should be cleaned and examined before storing. The area should be dry, as moisture can cause corrosion to electrical and internal components. The storage room should be locked to prevent theft and tampering. If the tools are stored on a shelf where the user must reach for the tool, protect all sharp components with guards to prevent injury. Bits and blades should be stored in cases to prevent hand injuries.