Post written by: Scott Reinhardt
The first thing my neighbor does when he buys a new power tool is remove every safety guard. He says they slow him down.
Unfortunately, he’s not alone in that decision. Modifying safety equipment is one of the leading causes of farm accidents involving chain saws, circular saws, drills and related tools and equipment. In addition to serious injury or death, misuse of power tools can result in lawsuits, workers’ comp claims, higher insurance premiums and costly penalties from OSHA. It’s simply not worth it.
Here are some tips to help you comply with safety regulations, avoid injuries and minimize risks when using power tools on your farm.
- Don’t modify tools. Farm workers are in a constant race against the clock – or the latest weather report – so it’s reasonable to think that you can boost productivity by taking shortcuts with equipment. Modifying or removing the shields or guards on a power tool may shave off time a project, but those components were placed there for a reason – to protect your workers. Plus, you have even more to lose if a worker is seriously injured as a result of your safety modification.
- Insist on proper equipment training. Your workers might assure you that they know what they’re doing, but it pays to make sure. Read the operator’s manual for new tools and outline proper safety guidelines before your family members or hired workers use an unfamiliar tool for the first time. Also consider whether your children are old enough to use dangerous power tools. Better to be safe than sorry.
- Dress for safety. Baggy shirts and pants can get caught in the teeth of equipment, creating a dangerous safety hazard. Require your workers to wear more fitted clothing when operating equipment. Also require that workers wear safety goggles when there is a chance of flying debris.
- Don’t settle for quick fixes. Farmers don’t have the time luxury of calling a tow truck or dropping off a faulty vehicle or piece of equipment for a quick fix. They learn early how to make their own repairs, and many have their own small machine shops. It’s all part of getting the job done — and done quickly. But don’t sacrifice a quick fix for the safety of your workers. For example, always take the time to shut off motors before investigating problems. Block wheels before working on vehicles, and use jacks to raise or prop up vehicles, rather than improvising with concrete blocks or other items.
Take your time, work with the proper tools and equipment and make sure your people are properly trained and working safely. These simple guidelines for using power tools will help you keep your people out of harm’s way and your business OSHA compliant.