Smart ways to work with everyday tools
By Olivia Grider
The accident: A landscaping crewmember using gas-powered hedge trimmers is clipping a shoulder-height row of bushes along a property line. Deciding to take a break about halfway down the row, he steps back and prepares to lower the trimmer, which feels heavy to him at this point. The worker’s arms are aching and weak, and he has little control over the trimmer. It drops quickly to his right side, its blades slicing through his pants and into his thigh, creating a deep laceration.
The bottom line: This is a common injury scenario among landscape maintenance workers. Your arms begin to tire after holding up handheld equipment such as trimmers and shears for an extended time, and the natural tendency is to lower them to your sides or the front of your thighs while moving from one area to another.
Knowing your limitations and taking frequent breaks can prevent this type of accident. If possible, alternate among different tasks so you don’t overexert certain muscle groups. Wearing chainsaw chaps and other gear also can help protect you when operating handheld equipment. Necessary personal protective equipment often includes safety goggles, gloves, steel-toed boots, hearing protection and sometimes respiratory protection.
Handheld power tools such as hedge trimmers, shears, line trimmers, leaf blowers, chainsaws and masonry saws might have become such an everyday part of your job that you have forgotten the hazards they pose.
REDUCE THE RISKS
• Wear personal protection equipment.
• Examine power tools for damage before use, and do not use damaged tools.
• Use the correct tool for the application.
• Don’t operate electric equipment in damp or wet locations unless it is approved for that purpose.
• Keep cords away from heat, sharp edges and cutting surfaces of power saws or drills.
• Don’t use an adaptor or other means to plug a three-pronged cord into a two-hole receptacle. The third prong is a grounding conductor that protects you from electric shock.
• Disconnect tools when you aren’t using them, before servicing them and when changing accessories such as blades or bits.
• Keep the working area free from debris and obstacles to prevent slips or trips with or around power tools.
• Don’t hold your fingers over control buttons while carrying a powered tool.
• Maintain stable footing and balance when using handheld equipment. Sturdy work boots can help with this.
• Handle, transport and store fuel only in containers approved for flammable liquids.
• Shut off a fuel-powered tool’s engine and let it cool before refueling. If you don’t, vapors from the fuel could ignite.
• Don’t remove safety guards or override any safety controls or switches.
• Be aware of your surroundings and the posi tion of handheld equipment in relation to your body.