What are Common Power Tool Injuries?
September 24, 2020
Nearly eight million people are employed in the construction industry in the United States, according to Data USA. Many workers rely on power tools every day to perform their job duties. Unfortunately, power tool injuries are all too common. Employers can prevent many injuries if they provide proper training and tool maintenance.
Types of Power Tools
There are several power tools on the market today, including the following:
- Nail guns, drills, tapers, and fastener drivers
- Angle grinders, disc sanders, and belt sanders
- Routers and planers
- Chain saws, saber saws, scroll saws, jigsaws, and circular saws
- Lifts and jacks
Power tools present different types of hazards. Grouping these tools according to their power source, as illustrated in the following list, is one way to identify specific types of hazards:
- Electric tools. These include drills, heat guns, sanders, saws, and many other types of tools. Electric tools can cause shocks and burns, as well as other types of injuries.
- Pneumatic tools. Pneumatic drills vibrate at high speeds, which over time cause repetitive stress injuries to nerves, muscles, and joints, particularly in the hands and fingers.
- Power-actuated tools. These include nail guns, which are powered by a controlled explosion of a chemical propellant, not unlike that which discharges a firearm.
- Hydraulic tools. Hydraulic lifts, which are capable of raising heavy loads, pose hazards of serious caught-between injuries if the lift is used improperly.
- Liquid powered tools. Gas-powered saws and riding lawnmowers may cause burns and other injuries if they explode or catch on fire.
Employers must train workers against the possibility of getting shocked, which can result in heart failure, as well as burns. Employers must be especially vigilant when workers operate electric tools outside and/or in damp conditions. Electric tools should have one of the following:
- Three-wire grounding
- Double insulation that provides protection against electrical shock without three-wire grounding
For double-insulated tools, an internal layer of protective insulation should completely isolate the external housing of the tool.
Special Considerations for Gasoline Powered Tools
Several hazards are associated with liquid-fuel powered tools, including the following:
- Burns caused by explosions or fire ignited by fuel vapors
- Respiratory problems from inhaling fuel vapors
- Carbon monoxide poisoning from exhaust fumes, resulting in neurological damage and even death
Employers must train workers to shut off the power tool and allow it to cool before refilling its fuel tank. Adequate ventilation is absolutely necessary when using a fuel-powered tool inside a closed area. Employers should provide workers with respirators to avoid breathing in carbon monoxide.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nail guns are a leading cause of injury among carpenters and account for more than 35,000 emergency room visits annually. All nail guns have the potential to cause puncture wounds and other serious injuries because they essentially operate like a loaded handgun. Using a nail gun with a bump or automatic trigger can result in unintended nail discharge. Using a nail gun with a single shot or full sequential trigger reduces the risk of injury.
Angle Grinders, Disc Sanders, and Belt Sanders
Grinders, as well as disc sanders and belt sanders, have been known to cause eye injuries, lacerations, amputations, and cuts from flying pieces of wood. Workers using these tools may also suffer temporary or permanent lung damage from inhaling sawdust. According to the National Institutes of Health, angle grinders have been known to cause extensive damage to the face, head, and neck.
These injuries, which may be fatal, result from the high speed of the disc and the projection of material should the abrasive wheel shatter.
Injuries from Chain Saws
Each year, more than 30,000 people suffer chain saw-related injuries, ranging from lacerations to head, neck, and shoulder injuries resulting from chain saw kickback. Approximately one-third of all chain saw injuries affect the legs. The safest type of hand-held saw is one that is equipped with a constant-pressure switch or control that shuts off the power when pressure is released. Alternatively, saws may have lock-on controls that allow workers to shut off the tools in a single motion, using the same finger.
Are Employers Responsible for Preventing Power Tool Injuries?
Standards established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) make it clear that employers are responsible for fulfilling the following duties that can prevent power tool injuries:
- Maintaining the safe condition of tools and equipment
- Removing broken or worn tools from the workplace until they can be replaced or repaired
- Installing proper lighting in the workplace
- Providing training for employees in the proper use of all tools
- Ensuring that only trained workers use power tools
- Providing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees, including gloves, safety glasses, face shields, and footwear
To properly carry out these duties, employers should follow OSHA guidelines for conducting worksite analysis, hazard prevention, and safety training. Providing PPE is especially important because power tools may eject bits of material at high speeds. Examples of PPE include the following:
- Face shields or goggles to protect the eyes and face from flying debris or corrosive liquids
- Respirators to provide protection from particulate matter and noxious fumes
- Hearing protection
- Anti-vibration gloves for use with hydraulic or pneumatic tools
- Steel-toe boots
- Hard hats
By providing adequate PPE, safety training, and proper tool maintenance, employers can minimize work injuries. However, there are instances in which defective power tools may be the cause of an accident.
Manufacturers May Be Liable for Injuries Caused by Defective Power Tools
Many times, power tool injuries are the result of a manufacturing defect. The Consumer Product Safety Commission lists power tools that have been recalled because of defects, including many types of chain saws. If a worker is injured on the job, Workers’ Compensation benefits may be available. Employees may also be able to file a third-party claim against the equipment manufacturer, a subcontractor, or someone other than their employer if negligence caused the accident.
New Jersey Construction Accident Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Assist Workers Injured in Construction Site Accidents
Hundreds of workers are injured each day on construction sites. Many of these accidents involve the use of power tools. The New Jersey construction accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP assist injured workers in determining whether they should pursue an injury claim. For more information about construction accident claims or to schedule a free consultation, contact us online or call 800-222-8792. From our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we proudly help injured workers throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.