Do it yourselfers save money by being handy around the house. A well-stocked toolbox is their constant companion. When using power tools, it’s easy to keep safety in mind—electric and pneumatic tools require careful handling. The noise they make and the force they generate are built-in reminders to be careful.
Manual tools, on the other hand, may seem so ordinary that safety doesn’t seem like an important concern. But the truth is that hammers, wrenches, and screwdrivers cause tens of thousands of injuries a year in the United States.
Over 100,000 people visit emergency rooms each year due to injuries incurred while using hand tools. Learn about the most common injuries from hand tools so you can remind yourself of common-sense safety measures the next time you pull out your toolbox.
Flying woodchips or metal shards cause eye injuries and even blindness. Never use a hammer or chisel with a mushroomed head: the heads can shatter and send metal shards flying, possibly into unprotected eyes. Always wear eye protection when using manual tools.
Repetitive motion, or working in awkward, strained positions can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, tennis elbow (epicondylitis), bursitis, or Raynaud’s syndrome (“white finger”). These cause pain, tingling, numbness, or other discomfort in fingers, hands, arms, or shoulders. Make sure the tools you use fit comfortably in your hand and are of a proper weight and size. The tool should feel balanced in your hand, not as if it will droop or tip.
Broken Bones, Bruises, Punctures, and Cuts
A moment’s distraction can mean a crushed bone in your hand from a hammer blow. Screwdrivers left sitting on ladders can fall and cause puncture injuries, even through the skull. The head of an axe or hammer with a loose, cracked, or splintered handle can fly off and hit you or someone else, causing severe injury. Always inspect your hand tools to check their condition before use.
Whenever you are fastening materials together using nails or staples, there is a risk of puncture injury. Slap staplers, also known as hammer tackers, are a manual alternative to electric or pneumatic staplers for fixing roofing felt, house wrap, or carpet padding. But safety measures for hammer tackers should still be observed. Using the wrong sized staple, or forcing the tool to work on materials harder than it can handle, can cause staples to ricochet, puncturing skin or hitting eyes. A utility knife can amputate a finger, while saws can slip. A tool made to cut wood or metal can easily lacerate fingers and forearms.
To avoid common hand tool injuries, always wear eye protection when working with manual tools. Clear your workspace of distractions and tripping hazards. Take breaks to vary your physical position and rest your hands, wrists, and arms.