Power tool safety


2 February 2017

A number of separate incidents have occurred in the ACT this week where power tools have caused serious injuries.

Access Canberra reminds all business owners and PCBUs that they should ensure workers have received adequate training for each power tool in use and are confident they can properly operate the machine correctly.

Photo of running power tool

Contributing factors

A worker suffered a finger injury while operating a fixed drop-saw in a factory setting. At the time of the incident the worker was cutting two metre lengths of timber. In a separate incident involved worker sustained an arm injury when cutting material with a four-inch battery grinder without the safety handle attached.

Finally we have been made aware of worker suffering injury to his fingers from a mechanical path-edger.

Action required

Before a business requires its workers attempt any tasks that are new or different, operators must be given training and instruction on the safe use of the power tool including:

  • how to hold the power tool safely, maintain good balance and footing at all times, and avoid using it in awkward positions;
  • how to position the power tool so they are neither bending over nor standing directly behind the blade, especially when the guard is pulled back towards the top of the blade;
  • not over-reaching, or holding the power tool above the line of the shoulder;
  • not cutting objects for which an abrasive blade is not intended; or
  • not using the power tool to pry or shovel away objects.

Other safety tips for the use of power tools including drop-saws, angle grinders, and drill presses are:

  • use power tools with the correct guard supplied by the manufacturer
  • use the correct spindle flange and lock nut for the disc and make sure these are fitted the way the angle grinder manufacturer shows in the instruction manual. The type of flange or fitting method may vary for cutting and grinding discs. If the incorrect flange and lock nut combination are used, the disc can be damaged and lead to premature failure or can become loose and dislodge
  • the guard should be designed to prevent cutting with the front and upper quadrant of the blade – don’t pull the guard beyond the limit stop
  • use wet-cutting when possible – the water acts as a lubricant, reduces reactive forces and limits dust and fumes
  • reduce pressure on the saw as the cut nears its end – too much pressure may cause loss of control, particularly if the blade strikes a foreign object and shatters, or the bla
  • ensure the object:
    • is fully supported – eg place pipes on timber supports; material being cut is supported and balanced for before and after the cut;
    • is secured so that it cannot roll or slip away – eg chocked and does not vibrate;
    • use timber wedges to prevent cut from closing.
  • operators must wear appropriate personal pro
  • tective equipment (PPE) – eg mask, goggles and hearing protection.
  • a safe system of work must ensure that no-one is exposed to any risks when working in the vicinity of the saw – eg establish an exclusion zone, with clearly defined physical barriers and signage, when the saw is in use.

If the tasks are to be performed by your workers, then ask:

  • If the tasks are to be performed by your workers, then ask:
  • are activities within the capability and experience of the workers?
  • does the work involve serious work health and safety risks arising from the work environment or the nature of the work, if so how will those risks be eliminated or reduced to the lowest level possible?
  • what level of supervision and resources will be required to safely perform the work?

New or different work should not proceed unless the workers are capable of safely performing the tasks, risks have been reduced to the lowest level possible and appropriate levels of supervision are in place. And remember, every worker has the right to say no to unsafe work.

Further information

For more information watch our safety video on how to use power tools safely or contact WorkSafe ACT on 13 22 81 or email WorkSafe@act.gov.au.

This Alert contains information emerging during an investigation by WorkSafe ACT into the mentioned incident at the date of this report. The information contained in this report does not necessarily reflect the final outcome of WorkSafe’s views or proposed actions with respect to this incident. WorkSafe ACT does not warrant the information in this report is complete or up-to date and does not accept any liability to any person for the information in this report, or its use.

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