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Tools and Equipment Health and Safety

Only Use Tools and Equipment as Intended

Woodworking using a machine

A number of health and safety incidents take place due to equipment being used in a way that it was never designed or intended to be used in. Any safeguards or protection on tools will be there to protect the operator or those nearby when it is being used as it was intended, but by using it in a different way these safeguards are likely to be rendered ineffective, increasing the risk of injury.

Not only can safety features be rendered useless, but using equipment incorrectly can also introduce new dangers which would otherwise not be present if it was being used properly.

The most likely reason for using tools or equipment in this way is usually one of two things:-

Firstly, it can be because the right equipment is not available for the worker to use. Whether it is down to a lack of forward planning, an unexpected change in the work needing to be carried out, the correct equipment breaking, or management cutting costs by not spending money on the right tools, workers may be instructed to 'make do or improvise' with what they have got.

Alternatively, the right tools and equipment may be available but it may be located a short distance away and the worker is too lazy to go and fetch it. Similar to a person on a ladder over-reaching rather than getting down, moving the ladder and going back up again, laziness or trying to save time by using what is to hand rather than fetching the right tool has been a cause of many injuries to people, ranging from minor ones to major ones and even death in some instances.

So whilst it may be tempting to save time or money by using the wrong tools or equipment, the risks to health are not worth it.

Identifying Broken Equipment with Regards to Health and Safety

One of the main dangers to a person's health and safety, whether in the home or in a place of work, is the risk from using damaged or faulty equipment. There are many obvious examples, including the risk of electric shock, fire and explosion which can have detrimental effects ranging from minor injuries right up to causing death, not only for the person using the equipment but also those nearby.

Broken equipment can also take the form of damaged or defective safety protection which is designed to protect the wearer from harm when it is in good condition, but can fail to provide this protection when it is not in an adequate state.

Regulations such as the Health and Safety at Work etc Act (HASAWA) and Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) place responsibility for safe equipment on both the employer and the workers themselves. Whilst the employer needs to provide equipment in good condition and provide appropriate protective equipment, it is also a duty of employees to inform their employer in a timely manner of any damage or defects they come across in the equipment so that the employer can take the appropriate action, whether this is getting it repaired by a competent person or replacing the equipment in question. By placing the emphasis on both sides, i.e. both employers and employees, faulty equipment is therefore much more likely to not be used if both parties are keeping a close watch on the state and condition of equipment.

Relevant Training:

Construction Training:- Whilst virtually every industry will use equipment, tools and safety equipment in some form, the construction industry is one industry in which workers will be using a lot of equipment which can cause serious injury or worse if it is not properly maintained, operating correctly and free from damage. At the BCF Group and our selected partners, we offer a range of bespoke and accredited health and safety courses for those in the construction industry, including the Site Managers SMSTS, Site Supervisors SSSTS, the NEBOSH Construction Certificate and courses such as permit to work training and control of substances hazardous to health (coshh).

Why is Conveying Equipment Limitations Important in Health and Safety Training?

Workers in pretty much every industry will use equipment to some extent in their job. Any piece of equipment or tools will have maximum tolerances and allowances which, if exceeded, can have severe health implications for both the operator and anybody else nearby.

The exact effect of pushing machinery beyond its limits will depend upon the item in question, but typical consequences which can pose a danger to health include:

  • Explosions
  • Starting of fires (Related Link: NEBOSH Fire Safety Qualification)
  • Pieces flying off which can cause cuts and lacerations
  • Electrical shocks
  • Chemical burns if hazardous substances leak/escape
  • Crashes if the equipment is a plane, helicopter, car or other vehicle

Because these situations can cause death or serious injury it is imperative that those who will be given the responsibility of using or operating machinery/equipment are provided with suitable health and safety training which includes not only instruction in how to safely operate it (and switch it off!), but are also made explicitly aware of its limitations and maximum operating levels, as pushing it beyond these can lead to one or more of the hazardous situations listed above.

Equipment and machinery should also be maintained and kept in good working order, and is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that this is the case and for employees to immediately notify employers if they discover a fault. If it is not maintained properly, these tolerance levels may be significantly reduced and may break at well under the level to which the operator has been told in the training session, and may even be different to just the last time they used it.

How Much Maintenance is Enough for Health and Safety?

A high percentage of accidents in the workplace are as a result of maintenance which is not preformed correctly or even not undertaken at all. Maintaining tools and equipment is essential to keep it in a condition which not only allows the task to be completed properly and efficiently, but also will not pose an additional danger to the health and safety of the operator or those nearby, over and above the risks that it poses normally when it is in good condition, e.g. sharp blades.

The risks associated with poor or inadequate maintenance include a danger from flying parts which come loose and strike a person, electrocution from defective wiring, lacerations from loose or missing safety guards, explosions from hot parts coming into contact with fuel or from a build-up of gas which is not properly vented, and many more. The abundance of potential hazards to health mean that good maintenance is essential for keeping people safe, not to mention being a legal requirement to ensure the health and safety of workers/operators.

How much maintenance is enough when it comes to health and safety will depend largely upon the individual tool or equipment. For example a complicated electrical machine which has numerous moving parts and a highly combustible source of fuel is likely to require much more stringent and frequent maintenance than a simple set of hand-operated shears. The normal operating environment and conditions which the equipment is exposed to will affect the amount of maintenance required too, as conditions such as salt water or extreme temperatures can speed up the deterioration of parts and equipment.

Health and Safety Dangers When Performing Maintenance

The normal operation of machinery in a place of work can be a danger to health at any time if they are used in the wrong way or a person gets closer to them than they should. However, if the right precautions and safety measures are not put in place and rigorously enforced, performing maintenance on equipment can be even more dangerous.

Whilst health and safety training courses and safety briefings can inform workers about what to do and what not to do, it needs to be supplemented with control measures to prevent an accident happening.

The causes of this danger to those performing maintenance on equipment usually takes one of two forms; either from the equipment itself or from the actions of other people.

As far as the actions of other people are concerned, this is likely to involve maintenance on extremely large pieces of equipment where it is prematurely restarted or the supply of electricity is turned on whilst work is still being performed. Suitable precautions must be taken to prevent this such as switching off the isolator and using a padlock to lock it in place. The person doing the work should have the only key so that only they can turn the power back on once they are clear of the machinery. If multiple people are working on it, they should each have their own unique padlock.

With regards to the equipment itself, the risks are extremely varied and will depend largely upon the type of machinery being maintained. These dangers include the accidental starting of the equipment, not disconnecting from mains electricity before starting work, static electricity which causes a fire or explosion, burns from unexpected hot gas release or leaking of corrosive chemicals, damage from substances which are hazardous to health, falling from height if the machinery or access area involves a person having to go high up, extreme temperature, noise, cuts from sharp edges and many, many more.

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Noise Awareness

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It will take you through some of the simple science, the main legislation that applies, and introduce you to noise level limits.

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