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When your power cutting tools go on the blink, it’s more than inconvenient. Projects are delayed while equipment is repaired, and in the worst case, physical injuries can result. Ongoing and appropriate maintenance can minimize the time your power tools are out of commission. More importantly, maintenance can spare you or your worker from injury.

Basic Power Tool Maintenance

The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the omnipotent agency watching over the construction industry nationwide, set standards for equipment safety that contractors are required to meet. When contractors are written up for violations, projects can be shut down. Fines are $7,000 per incident plus any civil charges and fines that are levied. In the case of death resulting from known OSHA violations, the contractor can be sentenced to prison for life.

OSHA isn’t an agency to mess with.

Implement a weekly review of the condition of power tools to keep ahead of this agency and hopefully avoid OSHA violations and claims against your construction firm. Basic reviews include:

  • Protect any exposed moving part of power tools with a guard while stored and at any time the tool is not being used.
  • Use only hand-held power tools that feature a constant-pressure switch or a control that shuts off the power when pressure is released. A lock-on control is allowable if it can be shut off with a single motion using the same finger or fingers.
  • A constant pressure control switch is preferred for jigsaws, saber and scroll saws with blade shanks a nominal 1/4-inch (6.35 millimeters) or less in diameter.
  • Circular saws with a blade diameter greater than 2 inches (5.08 centimeters), chain saws, and percussion tools with no means of holding accessories securely must be equipped with a constant-pressure switch.

Electric Tool Hazard Prevention
The most serious hazards with electric tools are burns and shocks. Electrical shock can cause heart failure and burns. Even a small electric current can cause fibrillation of the heart and death. When shocked, workers can fall from ladders or elevated work spaces causing even greater injuries.

A three-wire cord with a ground plugged into a grounded receptacle is required when using electrical tools. Never remove the third prong from the plug as a work around for the wrong extension cord.

Double insulation or tools powered by a low-voltage isolation transformer are acceptable. Double-insulated tools protect against electrical shock without third-wire grounding because the internal protective insulation isolates the external housing of the tool.

Use common sense and these general practices when using electric tools:

  • Only use electric tools that are protected by ground-fault circuit interrupters
  • Don’t use an electric tool designed for a specific purpose for another non-approved purpose
  • Store electric tools in a dry place
  • Do not use electric tools in damp or wet locations
  • Always work under bright lights when using electric tools
  • Proactively minimize trip hazards, adhering cords with duct tape.

Improper tool storage can damage tools beyond use. Protect power tools from frost, humidity and heat waves. Keep the instructions that came with the tool when you purchased it. Sometimes it’s a good idea to keep the original box and receipt too. Just for grins, look at that receipt once in a while to be reminded what a good tool costs. That in itself can inspire you to take better care of your tools going forward.