Tool and Equipment Safety

Tool safety is important. Failure to follow safety rules can result in suspension of membership.

Assumption of Competence

Most of our basic tools do not have a training requirement and, as part of your membership, it is assumed that if you’re using one of these tools then you have enough skill to use it without damaging yourself, others, or the tool itself.

Basic ability does not always imply skilled use, however, so it is still recommended you look into the “proper” way to use a tool. As with anything, if you have questions, ask!

The Right Tool

It’s important to use the right tool in order to complete a job safely, quickly, and efficiently. Expect to hear this repeated a few more times to ensure it’s a basic habit of self-inspection and safety. Using the right tool results in better quality in the final product. Please don’t hesitate to discuss with others to ensure you are using the right tools for your projects.

Training Requirements

Some of the larger, more complex, more expensive, or more dangerous tools will generally have training requirements to use them. These trainings provide basic operational and safety instructions, so that you know how to use the tool without harming it or yourself. You may not be able to get training on demand (e.g. at the last minute), so it’s always advisable to arrange to get trained as soon as you’re able for future use.

Damage and Replacement

Root Access assumes that, unless there’s an explicit training requirement, you are skilled enough to use the tool you wish to use. If a member damages or destroys a tool through misuse, that member will be expected to contribute to its replacement or repair cost, either in full or in part, depending on the situation. Damage or destruction through normal use can be considered wear and tear, and will not usually be directed at the last user (though a contribution to replacement is normal and appreciated).

For example, a chisel handle breaking when being used to carve wood with a wood-mallet would likely be considered the tool wearing out and the space deciding on replacement. However, a chisel handle breaking because you used it as a crowbar to tear open a toaster is your fault, and you’ll be expected to replace it yourself.

Hand Tool Safety

These tools, while they do not involve the same dangers as power machinery, should be used cautiously. Often, the type of injury sustained while misusing these tools are small cuts and lacerations – sometimes requiring stitches. Please observe the following guidelines while using hand tools.

Hand tools are non-powered tools. They include wrenches, hammers, chisels, screwdrivers, and other hand-operated mechanisms. Even though hand tool injuries tend to be less severe than power tool injuries, hand tool injuries are more common. Because people take everyday hand tools for granted, simple precautions for safety are easily forgotten.

The most common hand tool accidents are caused by the following:

  • Failure to use the right tool. For example, do not use a screwdriver as a chisel. The tool can slip and cause a deep puncture wound. The tip of the screwdriver may break and cause an injury. Do not use a knife as a screwdriver for the same reason. Don’t use pliers like a wrench.

  • Failure to use a tool correctly. For every tool, you can easily search online for the tool name and the word “safety” and receive many guides on correct use. For example, use your favorite search engine and enter “wrench safety”. You may be surprised at what you learn.

  • Failure to keep edged tools sharp. If you encounter a tool that is dull, DO NOT USE IT and immediately notify Root Access leadership. This includes knives, scissors, chisels, and other blades. Dull tools are more dangerous than sharp tools. A dull edge requires more pressure to cut, increasing the chance that the edge will slip with great force behind it. A sharp edge bite into the surface of the material more readily.

  • Failure to safely store tools. Improper tool storage is responsible for many accidents. Return each tool to its marked location for proper tool storage. Never carry a screwdriver or chisel in your pocket. If you fall, the tool could cause a serious injury. Instead, use a tool belt.

  • Using a defective tool – notify leadership immediately if you suspect a tool is defective. Don’t use a wrench with sprung jaws, blades with broken tips, bent pliers, etc.

Use the right tool for the job to complete a job safely, quickly, and efficiently.

  • Wear safety glasses whenever you hammer or cut, especially when working with surfaces that chip or splinter.

  • Review the proper use of the tool before using for the intended purpose. For example: Use the proper wrench to tighten or loosen nuts. Turn the wrench with the handle in the direction of turn, with no horizontal force or twist. Many wrenches are designed to turn safely in only one direction of rotation with respect to head placement, ensure the rotation is proper for the wrench design.

  • Think about the direction your energy is going while performing an operation. If you are holding material in your hands, be sure the action is going away from your body. Better yet, clamp the material in a vise or to the surface of a workbench. When using a chisel, blade saws, knives and other tools always chip or cut away from yourself and away from aisleways and other people.

  • Look around before you start, with the direction of materials or tools are heading in the direction of. Think through a procedure before you attempt it. Many times, we become complacent or are rushing through a job – that is when accidents are most likely to occur.

Hand-held Power Tools and Stationary Machines

In addition to all the safety for hand-held tools, power tools and stationary machines require additional levels of vigilance and mitigations.

The most dangerous parts of these tools are the moving parts. The radial forces produced by spinning shafts, pulleys, blades and belts can be particularly dangerous. This danger arises from two effects of spinning parts:

  1. outward forces—wood and debris can become violent projectiles when thrown by spinning blades

  2. inward forces—loose clothing, jewelry, hair, and fingers can be grabbed, wound up, and pulled in and mangled by any spinning machinery.

Always be aware of the danger of these radial forces.

Power tools can be extremely dangerous if they are used improperly. Common accidents associated with power tools include abrasions, cuts, lacerations, amputations, burns, electrocution, and broken bones.

These accidents are often caused by the following:

  • Failing to use the right tool for the job. Select the correct bit, blade, cutter, or grinder wheel for the material at hand.

  • Touching the cutting, drilling, grinding components, hot tools or hot work pieces.

  • Getting caught in moving parts.

  • Suffering electrical shock due to improper grounding, equipment defects, or operator misuse.

  • Being struck by particles that eject during operation.

  • Falling in the work area or being struck by falling tools.

Use the right tool for the job to complete a job safely, quickly, and efficiently.

  • Review the proper use of the tool or machine before using for the intended purpose. Know the tool’s capabilities and the work it is intended for. To operate a machine safely, you must know more than just how to turn it on and off; you must know how to perform the basic operations and how to make simple adjustments. Always maintain a healthy respect for the tool’s capabilities and limits. Never use a machine for a job it was not designed for and never experiment – if you are unsure about how to perform a certain operation, ask Root Access leadership. The more you know about a machine, the safer you will be, but don’t become overconfident – that leads to carelessness, which causes accidents.

    • Always operate tools at the correct speed for the job at hand. Working too slowly can cause an accident just as easily as working too fast.

    • Keep all guards in place. Cover exposed belts, pulleys, gears, and shafts that could cause injury. Do not use a machine without the proper guards. Keep all safety releases and devices in place. Never disable or tamper with safety releases or other automatic switches.

    • Only change blades, bits, etc. when the tool is off and unplugged. It is very easy to accidentally turn the tool on.

    • Disconnect power tools before performing maintenance or changing components or machine adjustments.

  • Have a plan of the procedure. Consider and think through each step ahead of time.

  • Always wear eye protection and other personal protective equipment. Avoid wearing loose clothing, remove jewelry, gloves of any kind, key chains, rings, bracelets, badges, that could catch in moving machinery. Tie back hair securely and tuck long hair into clothing or netting. Some tools, such as the lathe, may also require the use of a face shield.

  • Use the right force – not too much and not too little – or have something else do the work.

    • Secure work pieces with a clamp or vise to free the hands and minimize the chance of injury. Use a jig for pieces that are unstable or do not lie flat.

    • Do not rely on strength to perform an operation. The correct tool, blade, and method should not require excessive force. If undue force is necessary, you may be using the wrong tool or have a dull blade.

    • Keep a firm grip on portable power tools. These tools tend to “get away” from operators and can be difficult to control.

  • Make sure to turn all tools off before unplugging, and always check that it is turned off before plugging in.

  • Before you turn on – check that you are safe and ready.

    • Clean and ready. No chuck key in chuck. All secondary, setup tools, unsecured parts moved away as they can vibrate into revolving parts and be thrown with great force. Clean floor with no slip hazards.

    • Safety guards in place, have a push tool stick to move material through a machine.

    • Know your material. Defects can be dangerous. Ensure material has the room to move through expected paths during operation.

    • No bystanders nearby or in the path of any ejected material

    • Proper body position. Body and hands are out of the path of the cutting force and any ejected material. Your stance is also important – stand in a comfortable, balanced (defensive) position when working. Both feet should be firmly on the floor.

    • You are not alone.

  • While operating – be aware.

    • If something doesn’t look, sound right, or feel right, turn off the machine and inform Root Access leadership.

    • Watch your work when operating. STOP working if something distracts you. Take your time and take breaks.

    • STOP if you notice others too near the work or there is buildup of dust/particles that might cause hazards.

    • If you feel unsure, STOP and ask for assistance.

    • Always keep your hands a safe distance from cutters and blades.

      • When feeding material through a machine with the hands, be aware of the direction you are pushing (away from blade or cutter).

      • Never reach over equipment while it is running.

      • Don’t make machine adjustments or clean while running.

    • Never stand in line with the force paths and planes of the machine, and always maintain a safe distance from spinning parts when the tool is operating.

  • Stopped

    • Ensure all moving parts come to a complete stop before making any moves towards the machine or tool.

    • Before clearing jams or blockages, turn off and disconnect from power source. Do not use your hand to clear jams or blockages, use an appropriate tool.

    • Before making adjustments, turn off and disconnect from power source. Use the correct tools to make adjustments.

Safety and Learning Never Ends

While this handbook does cover numerous safety issues, it is not a replacement for time spent practicing safe work habits at the hackerspace.

Completing the process to become certified on equipment (ROOT class) in no way makes the user an expert. Becoming accomplished at fabrication with many materials and the equipment used to shape them takes time, patience, and hard work.

Finally, understand the limits of the equipment, the materials, the size and scope of the project, and your own technical ability and when considering work at Root Access. Reach out, plan ahead, consult with others and ask for assistance. Root Access Leadership is available to help and offer advice.