Safety Tips for Power Tools

A saw shooting sparks out as it's being used.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm not the most comfortable around power tools. Clumsiness and power tools just don't feel like a good combination. Fortunately, I've never had any accidents (or even any close calls) and that's because I follow these power tool safety tips.

Use the Right Tool

Tools are designed to be used for specific tasks. If you use a tool that isn't meant for the task at hand, you're putting your safety at risk. A lot of people try to cut corners or save money by using the wrong tool, usually out of convenience, but if you don't have the right tool available you should hold off until you can purchase or borrow one meant for the job.

Read the Instructions

A lot of people refuse to read instructions, whether it's for a new camera or how to put together a desk. However, when it comes to power tools there's a bit more at stake—like your safety. Even if you have experience using a variety of power tools, various types and brands might have completely different specifications and precautions than what you're used to. There are also different safety measures necessary when using a power tool that has a cord compared to one that doesn't. Reading the instructions might take a few minutes, but it could save you a lot of grief.

Wear Proper Clothes

A woman using a drill.

As a young girl in shop class, I remember our teacher making a big deal out of wearing our hair back in a ponytail and tucking our clothes in so that nothing would get caught in any of the tools. You should always wear the proper clothes when using power tools. This means no baggy clothing that can get snagged or tangled, and long hair must be tied back so it doesn't get caught in anything. It's also a good idea to take off any jewelry, too. As well as wearing more formfitting outfits, you should also make sure your clothes cover your entire body.

Keep Fingers Away

This is an obvious safety tip, as we all learned in shop class back in middle school, but it's surprising how many people forget to keep track of where their fingers are when working away. Not only do you have to make sure your fingers are kept away from dangerous saws, grinders, and the chamber on a nail gun, but you should also be aware of keeping them away from the on/off switch. Although most power tools are designed to not turn on accidentally, there's always a chance they could.

Keep Your Work Area Clean

A messy work area will make you more prone to accidents. Flammable liquids left out, sawdust floating in the air, tangled cords—all of these can lead to disaster. If your work space is clean and tidy, not only will you be a lot safer, but you'll also be more productive.

Be Mindful of Cords

An extension cord on a wood floor.

Although a lot of power tools are now cordless, some do still have cords, which you need to be mindful of. Never carry your power tools by their cords and never swing them around by their cords. Unplug them when not in use and do so with a firm grasp, not a rough yank.

Disconnect When Not in Use

It might be more convenient to leave your power tool plugged in when you're working away, but you should really disconnect it when you're not using it. Although it's easier to keep it plugged in rather than unplugging it and plugging it back in repeatedly, it's quite dangerous. You should also get in the habit of unplugging it whenever you need to replace an accessory or part, and especially when inspecting it.

Inspect Tools Regularly

Damaged power tools are dangerous, and you might not even know it's damaged until it's too late. If you inspect the tool regularly, however, you're going to catch dangerous damages. If the safety guard is damaged, it must be replaced, but a damaged cord or a small nick can be covered with electrical tape. Once it's a deep cut, it will also need to be replaced. Get in the habit of inspecting your power tools before every use and you'll be much safer.

Protect Yourself

Someone wearing work gloves using a saw outside.

There are a lot of things that can go wrong when using a power tool. Wear earplugs to protect your hearing, safety goggles for your eyes, and gloves for your hands, depending on what power tools you are using.

Store Tools Properly

Power tool safety doesn't end after the project is done until you store the tools safely away. Power tools should be locked away when they're not in use, even if you're planning on using them the next day. A power tool that is left out can easily be knocked down or accessed by young, curious children.

Use a Clamp or Vice

A vice with a piece of wood in it.

If you're cutting, drilling, sanding, or even using a nail gun on anything that is not secured, you could get seriously hurt. To avoid having any materials deflect and injure somebody, you should take the extra few seconds to secure them with a vice or clamp.