Don’t let power tools make you their vic­tim

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - MIKE HOLMES

HAVE you ever heard the say­ing, A lit­tle bit of knowl­edge is a danger­ous thing? That’s es­pe­cially true when it comes to power tools, an area where some­one who knows just a lit­tle could re­ally use — or lose — a hand.

Now that power tools are more af­ford­able and the DIY move­ment is in full swing, tools are fly­ing off store shelves and into the hands of some peo­ple who have no busi­ness han­dling power tools. Lack of ex­pe­ri­ence, mixed with too much bravado, or the op­po­site — not enough con­fi­dence — is a danger­ous com­bi­na­tion when us­ing a power tool. And it’s not just DIYers who have ac­ci­dents; it’s ex­pe­ri­enced con­trac­tors as well.

A power tool can be a lot like a wild an­i­mal: sharp teeth and an un­pre­dictable na­ture. This de­mands that you not only learn the proper ways of han­dling such a beast, but you also know what makes it bite back.

Ob­vi­ously, read­ing the man­ual that comes with the tool is a start, but what every­one re­ally needs is an in­tro­duc­tory course with an ex­pe­ri­enced op­er­a­tor to not only get the best re­sults from their tools, but to know how to avoid cat­a­strophic ac­ci­dents. Com­mu­nity-col­lege night cour­ses and big-box stores of­fer power-tool cour­ses. I can only imag­ine how many emer­gency-room vis­its they’ve saved in the process.

For in­stance, every­one could ben­e­fit from some in­struc­tion when it comes to the mitre saw and ta­ble saw. Both tools are so pow­er­ful that, in the event the blade pinches, the wood can be drawn to­wards the ro­tat­ing teeth in a split sec­ond — some­times faster than an un­sus­pect­ing hand grip­ping the wood can let go. You don’t want to wit­ness what hap­pens when things go wrong. Learn­ing to re­spect the tool is half the bat­tle.

The next tool on the list: the nail gun. You know, there isn’t much dif­fer­ence be­tween a real gun and a nail gun: They’re both danger­ous and they both fire metal pro­jec­tiles at high ve­loc­ity.

When build­ing fences, it’s com­mon prac­tice for one per­son to work on one side of the fence while an­other works on the other. If a nail is shot into a wood plank and misses the con­nect­ing piece of wood, the nail can shoot through the plank, in­jur­ing the per­son on the other side of the fence.

The hand-held grinder can also be a nasty piece of work be­cause it can be used on so many ma­te­ri­als and, de­pend­ing of the abra­sive disk, can be used for grind­ing or cut­ting tile, metal and ma­sonry. The prob­lem is that it’s pos­si­ble to op­er­ate a grinder with one hand. And so of­ten the ac­ci­dent oc­curs be­cause the ma­te­rial be­ing cut, like a piece of tile, is held with the other hand.

The ad­vent of bat­tery-op­er­ated tools brings a new de­vel­op­ment in pow­er­tool safety. Back when power tools were all the plug-in type, it seemed to make sense to most peo­ple to un­plug the tool be­fore chang­ing the blade. But with bat­tery-pow­ered tools, it’s not so ob­vi­ous that the bat­tery should be re­moved be­fore mak­ing that same blade change.

Even those small hobby power tools can be­come danger­ous when used im­prop­erly. The small tools have high rev­o­lu­tions per minute and re­quire a firm grasp. The big prob­lem is that many peo­ple use th­ese tools while seated at a work­bench. If the tool slips out of the op­er­a­tor’s hand, it lands in his or her lap. Ouch.

The bot­tom line: If you’re go­ing to buy a tool, in­vest in your own safety. Take a course or have an ex­pe­ri­enced op­er­a­tor teach you proper op­er­at­ing tech­nique. And un­der­stand what lim­i­ta­tions the tool has. The odds of an ac­ci­dent sky­rocket when a tool is used on ma­te­ri­als it was not de­signed for, or when the blade has worn out.

If you need a power tool for a spe­cific project and think you might only use it the one time, con­sider rent­ing the tool. The rental com­pany will also give you some ba­sic in­struc­tion; it’s in their best in­ter­est to get their tool back in good con­di­tion and to have re­peat cus­tomers who still have all 10 of their dig­its.

Even when the tool is prop­erly used, it can still cause prob­lems if the most ba­sic pro­tec­tive de­vices are not used, namely, safety glasses, dust masks, gloves and proper ear pro­tec­tion.

Op­er­at­ing a power tool safely means hav­ing con­fi­dence and the right amount of knowl­edge — and giv­ing the tool your com­plete, un­di­vided at­ten­tion while you’re us­ing it. Ev­ery power tool de­mands R-E-S-P-E-C-T and it will help you ‘Make It Right.’

— Canwest News Ser­vice

Ja­son Coates, car­pen­ter at Mor­in­wood Inc,. glues pieces of Hem­lock that will be

part of the Vic­to­ria’s con­ven­tion cen­tre.

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