Hammering Down Safety

Ever since man picked up a rock more than 2 million years ago and used it break apart wood, bone and other objects, the hammer was destined to become an integral tool in the construction of human society. Yet despite more than 2 million years of experience using hammering devices, mankind still suffers from hammer-related injuries at a rate as high as any other hand tool.

Why?

Improper use, selection and maintenance.

By following the advice in this article, you and your employees can help prevent hammer related injuries in the workplace.

Hammer selection

There is no such thing as a "universal" hammer. Each hammer is designed for a specific job and using the improper hammer can increase the probability of an injury. The following is a look at a few of the more popular hammers and their intended usage.

  • Ball pein hammer - For riveting, center punching and bending or shaping soft metal. Choose a size to match the task.
  • Hand drilling hammer - The only hammer to use with star drills, masonry nails, steel chisels and nail pullers. Easy to handle; packs plenty of punch.
  • Rawhide mallet - For use in furniture assembly, shaping soft sheet metals or any task that requires non-marring blows.
  • Brick hammer - Designed for cutting and setting bricks or blocks, and for chipping mortar.
  • Shingling hatchet - Used for installing shakes and shingles. Handy gauge pin sets exposed length of shingle. Milled and crowned face sets nails cleanly.
  • Wallboard tool - Multi-purpose tool scores wallboard, makes cutouts and sets nails with a perfect dimple.
  • Curved claw or nail hammer - For use with finishing nails only. Choose 16 or 20 oz. weights for general carpentry; lighter weights for model work or fine cabinetry.
  • Straight claw or rip hammer - For use with non-hardened, common or finishing nails only. Choose weights from 20 to 32 oz. for framing and ripping.

Remember when selecting a hammer to always use the appropriate weight so only a natural swing is required. Let the weight of the hammer do the work.

Hammer safety

Hammer injuries can be caused by trying to strike too heavy a blow with a lightweight hammer, by using a damaged hammer and by using the wrong style of hammer for the task. These injuries can range from minors cuts and scrapes to possible broken bones of even damaged eyes. Follow these tips to prevent hammer injuries.

  • When using a hammer ensure proper clearance from fellow workers.
  • Keep your work area clean and free from debris.
  • Use hammers or mallets with insulated handles for work on or around exposed energized parts.
  • The hammer should feel balanced and under control as you grip the handle.
  • Wear proper eye protection.
  • When pulling nails or prying material apart, make sure the claw of the hammer is in the proper position and the right leverage is applied.
  • Never use anything other than a hammer to drive nails into material (i.e.... rock, brick, back of a tool).
  • Avoid handles with sharp edges which can cut off circulation to your finger during long periods of use.
  • Handles should be shaped to fit your hand comfortably.
  • Use hammers with cushioned handles to help absorb vibration, impacts or squeezing pressure.
  • Keep floors clean and dry to prevent accidental slips with or around dangerous tools.
  • When hammering make sure you can easily reach your work without straining muscles.
  • Make sure that you have secure footing and good balance while using a hammer.
  • Use a vise, clamps or other means to secure the piece you are striking.

Hammer maintenance

One of the greatest hazards of hammer use is improper maintenance. As an employer it is your responsibility to ensure the safe condition of the tools your employees use.

To ensure this safety you should train employees on how to properly maintain their hammers. To further enhance this training you should have employees sign off at least once a week that their equipment is in proper working condition.

Consider the following when crafting a hammer maintenance program.

  • Hammers with loose, splintered or cracked handles are susceptible to having the head fly off during use.
  • Use tool boxes or tool chests to keep hammers and tools organized.
  • Hang larger tools on pegboards and never leave hammers or tools strewn about your work area.
  • Replace broken equipment immediately.
  • Make repairs only if you are qualified.
  • Make sure you examine each hammer and tool before using.

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