Power Tools: Avoiding Electrical Incidents

Electric Tools Safety

Power tools are common in many workplaces, with particular industries using them daily or weekly. This means that there are additional safety considerations that come into play that are specific to handling those tools. 

This article will cover some key tips that can help you address safety and risk mitigation in relation to power tools and electrical incidents. 

Basic Safety Tips

Using tools

  • Never carry a tool by the cord. 
  • Never yank a cord to disconnect it from the receptacle. 
  • Avoid using tools in wet conditions and placing them on wet surfaces. 
  • Use appropriate Personal Protective Equipment such as gloves and safety footwear when using electric tools.
  • Do not use electric tools in damp or wet locations unless they are approved for that purpose. 
  • Keep work areas well-lit when operating electric tools. 

Storing tools

  • Keep cords away from heat, oil, and sharp edges (including the cutting surface of a saw or drill). 
  • Disconnect tools when not in use, before servicing, and when changing accessories such as blades, bits, etc… 
  • Avoid accidental starting. Do not hold fingers on the switch while carrying a tool that is energized. 
  • Store electric tools in a dry place when not in use. 
  • Ensure cords from electric tools do not present a tripping hazard. 
  • Remove all damaged portable electric tools from use and tag them “Do Not Use.” 

Using Double-Insulated Tools 

Handheld tools manufactured with non-metallic cases are called double insulated. If approved, they do not require grounding under the National Electrical Code. Such tools are commonly used in areas where there is considerable moisture or wetness.

This design method reduces the risk of grounding deficiencies, a shock hazard can still exist. Although the user is insulated from the electrical wiring components, water can still enter the tool’s housing. Ordinary water is a conductor of electricity. If water contacts the energized parts inside the housing, it provides a path to the outside, bypassing the double insulation. When a person holding a hand tool under these conditions contacts another conductive surface, an electric shock occurs. If a power tool, even when double-insulated, is dropped into water, the employee should resist the initial human response to grab the equipment without first disconnecting the power source. 

Using Portable Tool with Extension Cords 

Another potential hazard is using extension cords with portable tools, or chargers. These cords suffer a lot of wear and tear from foot traffic, sharp edges and hot surfaces. Often, the damage is only to the insulation, exposing energized conductors. When a person handling the damaged cord contacts the exposed wires while holding a metal tool case or contacting a conductive surface, serious electrical shock can result, causing a fall, physical injury, or death. 

Use a Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) if you are working in wet conditions, or at offsite locations where temporary power is being used. 

Together we can make work safe! Contact Northwest Safety for more information about safety training and services.