Getting the most out of your tool investment starts with care, safety, and planning
AS SEEN IN FACILITY MAINTENANCE DECISIONS, JULY 2023
By Susan Orenga,
Power Tool Institute
Power tools make work easier for millions of people, but this convenience comes with a price: the need to be ever vigilant about safety. Power tools must be used properly by following instructions in order to avoid any potential safety hazard. The Power Tool Institute (PTI) is dedicated to educating the public about the safe use of power tools. PTI also works to develop strong safety standards in the manufacture of power tools.
Although most power tools are not complicated to operate, basic safety practices must be followed, and the tools must be kept in proper operating condition to protect tool users. Here are some general safety instructions that apply to all power tools.
Before Using Power Tools
- Start with a safe work area. Keep your work area clean and well lit; cluttered benches and dark areas invite accidents. Do not operate power tools in explosive atmospheres, near flammable liquids, gases, or dust. Power tools create sparks, which may ignite dust or fumes. Keep bystanders, children, and visitors away when using a power tool. Distractions can cause potential risks.
- Good personal safety is a must. Always read and understand the tool’s operator’s manual, tool markings, and the instructions packaged with any accessories before starting work. Stay alert, watch what you are doing, and use common sense when using a power tool.
- Electricity can be dangerous. Grounded tools (three-pronged cords) must be plugged into a properly grounded outlet. Never remove or cut off the grounding prong or modify the plug in any way. Do not use adapter plugs.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Another vital safety measure is for users to employ safety equipment and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). You should always wear eye protection. When needed, you should also wear a dust mask, hard hat, non-skid safety shoes, gloves, and/or hearing protection. Regarding “safety goggles” or “safety glasses,” always refer to the tool’s instruction manual for the specific eye protection recommended. The eyewear chosen should be marked as complying with current national standards.
Regular Tool Maintenance
Maintenance keeps tools working safely and effectively. Look at the tool before using it. Are moving parts misaligned or binding? Is anything broken? Damaged tools must be repaired before using them.
Develop a maintenance schedule for your tool and maintain the tool and its accessories carefully. Keep blades and bits sharp and clean. Take your tool to be serviced by qualified repair people. Service or maintenance performed by unqualified personnel could result in a risk of injury.
Follow instructions regarding maintenance in the tool’s instruction manual. Use of unauthorized parts or failure to follow the maintenance instructions may create a risk of electric shock or injury. Clean and lubricate a tool only as directed in its instruction manuals. Certain cleaning agents such as gasoline, carbon tetrachloride, ammonia, etc., may damage plastic parts.
All of the above guidelines apply to both corded and cordless tools. However, there are also some rules that apply only to cordless power tools, which get their electrical power from batteries. They should be given the same respect that corded tools demand. Remember, cordless tools are also capable of causing injury if safety precautions are not followed.
Cordless tools come in many types; read and understand the section of this booklet for the type of cordless tool you are using, as well as the instruction manual provided with the tool.
It is of the utmost importance to choose the right battery pack for the cordless tool. Use only the battery packs recommended by the tool manufacturer. Other battery packs may create a risk of fire, burns, and explosions. Charge battery packs safely, only with their recommended chargers, in a dry location. Do not charge near combustible materials. Do not use a charger or battery pack if it has been hit, dropped, or damaged. Do not take apart the charger or battery pack yourself, take them to an authorized service center for all repairs. Keep tools, battery packs, and chargers out of the reach of children and people unfamiliar with the tools.
Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) batteries
For many years, the chemistry used in power tool batteries was commonly nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH) and nickel cadmium (Ni-Cd). During the past decade, there has been an almost universal conversion to lithium-ion (Li-Ion).
There were numerous reasons for the change, such as higher energy density (more energy in a smaller size), lower-toxicity materials, no memory effect, and slow rate of self-discharge. The benefits of this newer Li-Ion technology have allowed higher-demand tools and applications to be battery powered and provide significantly more work-per-charge. This extended capability, combined with the portability of battery tools, has resulted in a dramatic increase in their use.
A battery is designed to direct its energy along defined pathways in a controlled manner. If the energy finds a different, possibly even uncontrolled path, contact with caustic chemicals, burns from escaping chemicals, fire, or explosion can result – in some cases weeks after an internal fault occurs. The higher the energy density of a Li-Ion battery, the greater the potential to cause damage.
Each original equipment manufacturer (OEM) has its own proprietary control circuitry for the total system, which encompasses the tool, battery, and charger. This is so the three components communicate properly. There are numerous design considerations manufacturers address in the construction of their batteries: type and quality of cells; durability of electrical connections; electronic controls (in the battery, charger, and tool); protective housing; compliance with standards and 3rd-party certifications; etc.
For all these safety and compliance considerations, batteries are not cross-compatible (unless specified by the power tool manufacturer). When buying aftermarket batteries for power tools, it is important to consult the power tool instruction manual and purchase only the batteries recommended by the manufacturer. PTI has developed a special program to encourage safe battery use. Information can be found at https://www.takechargeofyourbattery.com/.
Battery storage and disposal
Maintain and store battery packs safely, away from metal objects like paper clips, coins, keys, nails, screws, or other small metal objects. These items can make a connection from one terminal to the other, shorting the battery terminals together, causing burns or fire. Store the battery pack away from extreme temperature conditions. Be aware that broken or abused battery packs can leak chemicals that can cause irritation or burns. If you come into contact with these chemicals, flush the area immediately with water. If it contacts the eyes, flush with water and seek medical help.
Recycle or dispose of battery packs properly to help protect our environment and to help prevent dangerous conditions that may occur if a lithium-ion battery is damaged or punctured after disposal. Additionally, battery pack chemistries can be hazardous to the environment under certain conditions.
Refer to the instructions included with your battery pack for proper disposal/recycling of the battery packs. Make sure you follow state, local, and federal regulations, since lithium-ion batteries cannot be disposed of with regular curbside recycling or trash. Place electrical tape over the battery pack’s terminals before disposing/recycling.
Call 1-800-BATTERY for disposal information. Many major retailers in U.S. and Canada have battery recycling collection boxes. For the sites nearest you, visit www.call2recycle.org or call the consumer helpline, 1-877-723-1297.