A guide to the proper & safe use of non powered hand tools.
Did you know that according to a study by Department of Labor and Industry, Pennsylvania more than 8% of the total workplace injuries are associated with wrong and incorrect use hand tools?
What’s worse is that most of these injuries either end up being fatal or lead to lifelong injuries.
All types of hand tools, be it spanners, wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers, handsaws, or even the knives we use in our homes, have a proper way of handling, which if ignored, can lead to severe accidents.
That’s why it is important for everyone who uses hand tools should know the right and safe way of using them. One must consider all these aspects and perform regular quality checks on their hand tools before using them, in order to avoid the risk of any potential workplace hazards or accidents.
We have listed 9 aspects that you should definitely know or check before using a hand tool.
1.Material or the alloy of the hand tool
While using any hand tool, you must make it a point to understand the material of the tool. Hand Tools are manufactured by carefully controlling the metallurgy and heat treatment process to achieve specific properties considering the end use and application.
Lets understand this with an example, general purpose hand tools commonly referred to as steel tools are actually made in variety of steel alloys, they are Chrome Vanadium (CRV), Chrome Molybdenum (CRM), and High and Low Carbon Steels etc.
Chrome Vanadium Steel is a special steel alloy created by adding chromium and vanadium as alloying elements. Chrome vanadium tools are smooth, hard, and quite shiny. Chrome vanadium is suitable for industrial and general purpose applications. They cannot be used where there are high impact loads, CRV is low on toughness and will break quickly.
Whereas, for higher impact loads like in the case of Impact Sockets, they are made from Chrome molybdenum (CRM), also called Cr-Mo or chromoly. It is a type of steel made from adding chromium, molybdenum as alloying elements. It is more tougher and has strong impact resistance, strength, and toughness than chrome vanadium.
Another example is of working in a Refinery in the Oil and Gas Industry where there is high concentration levels of flammable liquids, gases and vapours. Maintaining fire safety is one of the most important aspects in such areas. Even a small spark mechanical or electrical can lead to uncontrolled fire. For these reasons steel hand tools should not be used in the environments containing flammable solid, liquids or gases, steel tools if slips or falls on the ground with create a spark, which has sufficient energy to ignite the flammable vapors present in the environment. As per various safety standard only Non-Sparking Hand Tools primarily made from copper alloys should be used as they don't create hot sparks.
Non Sparking Hand Tools are made of copper alloys like Copper Titanium, Copper Beryllium and Aluminum Bronze. To know more about Non Sparking Hand Tools you can read our article on 19 FAQ on Non Sparking Hand Tools.
Selecting a wrong material of tool can lead to accidents. Hence, one must be cautious of the type of material considering all the aspects.
2.Sizes does matter!
There are two major systems of measurement, the metric system and the imperial system. The Metric System or SI (Système International) is based off this original meter and currently the official system of measurement for almost all countries. The Imperial system standardized measurements for units like pound and foot that had different meanings in different places.
While most of the world uses the international system of units, aka the metric system, the United States has its own system, based on the old British Imperial System of inches and pounds.
Because of these systems Industrial Equipment's, appliances etc. have fasteners, screws, nuts and bolts with specifications based on the country where it was designed manufactured and where the product will be used.
Therefore Hand tools are also available in imperial (inches, feet, etc.) and metric sizes (mm, m, etc.) to work with hardware manufactured in different units. An unaware users may end up using a metric size spanner on an imperial size bolts or vice versa by simply applying the conversion factor between imperial and metric.
For example, if there is a bolt head of 25 mm A/F (Across Flat), a user might use a 1” (inch spanner/wrench) (1inch = 25.4 mm). Now although this minute size difference of 0.4mm may seem small, it will cause slippage and tool will wear out quickly and eventually damage the tool as well as the fastener on the equipment, thus leading to the risk of breakdowns or accident.
Hence, one must understand the difference between measuring systems and sizes. It is important to use the correct size of tools for every application in order to ensure better performance of the equipment as well as increase the life of the tool.
3.There’s a right purpose for every tool!
Every hand tool is made for a specific function and purpose. Choosing the right tool for the exact job it is made for is necessary to avoid incidents and injuries.
Let us take an example of scrappers.
Scrappers as the name suggest are used to scrape off chemical, paints stuck on surface or clean a process equipment after completing a production batch. However, it is often found that instead of a scrapper a screwdriver is used to scrape off surfaces and may even hammer the screwdriver. This not only damages the screw driver but is a potential safety hazard, if hammer misses the screwdriver it will hit the hand - causing injury.
Adjustable Wrenches is another tool that is a cause for many hand tool accidents, it is commonly mis-understood that as a single tool (adjustable wrench) can be used instead of using a set open and ring spanners. The load capacity of an adjustable wrench is much lower than that of fixed spanners and therefore are not interchangeable. Adjustable Wrench is one of the most un-safe tool and cannot replace ring and open wrenches - read more about safety with adjustable wrenches.
Select a proper tool for the Job always.
4.Does your tool have the right Torque?
All hand tools are designed for specific job and a rated load just like any equipment. The load capacity of all hand tools used for tightening or loosening a fastener (a nut, bolt, screws etc.) is measured in Torque. Torque is a measure of the force that can cause an object to rotate about an axis, It is measured in Nm or ft-lb. The torque rating (or the load capacity) of a wrench is defined by the following parameters:
Size of the spanner/wrench : For each size of A/F (across flat) there is rated torque carrying capacity. Bigger the size the higher is the torque capacity.
Material of the tool : For the same A/F size different alloys have different capacity, this is determined by the strength of the material.
Type of tool : A ring spanner, an open spanner and a socket of the same size and material have a different torque ratings, this is because of the design and functionality.
Let us take an example, if there are bolts and nuts of 25 mm A/F on the cover of a chemical reactor and the required torque for securely sealing the cover is 500 Nm. A correct tool has to be selected for this operation. Let us look at the torque ratings of all 25 mm A/F hand tools as per IS-6131 standards.
Ring Spanner - 25 mm ( Tool alloy - Carbon Steel alloy, Series B) : 402 Nm
Ring Spanner - 25 mm ( Tool alloy - Chrome Vanadium alloy, Series A) : 496 Nm
Open Spanner - 25 mm ( Tool alloy - Carbon Steel alloy, Series D) : 161 Nm
Open Spanner - 25 mm ( Tool alloy - Chrome Vanadium alloy, Series C) : 322 Nm
Socket 1/2" - 25 mm ( Tool alloy - Chrome Vanadium alloy, Series E) : 569 Nm
Adjustable Wrench 12" (300 mm long) : 314 Nm
If you observe that same spanner manufactured from different alloys have different load ratings. A socket is the most compact tools and hence has the highest load carrying capacity. As be per above values ideally only a socket should be used with a torque wrench. A carbon steel open spanner will fall short and may even break. There is no such standard for Non-Sparking Hand Tools. Pahwa MetalTech Torque Tests all Copper Titanium Non-Sparking Hand tools as per steel tools standards as per the higher series of IS 6131 standards (i.e. A,C and E). Learn More on how copper titanium non sparking hand tools are torque tested
While selecting a hand tool, make it a point to check for its torque rating. Always keep in mind that if a tool is used beyond its rated capacity, it can deform or break and cause injury.
5.Check for coatings on your Hand Tools
Chrome Vanadium (CRV) Tools and chrome coated tools are completely two different materials often confused as the same. CRV is the alloy of hand tools, while chrome coating is done on hand tools to prevent oxidation and rusting.
Chrome-coated steel tools are also often mistaken as stainless steel tools (because of the shine and color). This mistake can be expensive if we are operating in a clean room environment. Chrome is hard but brittle coating, there is a risk it chipping off. This can contaminate the clean room environments. Further the exposed surface starts to corrode causing further contamination and health risks.
Stainless steel hand tools are not coated and the alloy itself is highly corrosion resistant - this make them safe and recommended for use in sterile applications. Pahwa MetalTech manufacturers STANMITE stainless steel tools for clean room and sterile applications to know more - Click here
Similarly, non-sparking tools mostly manufactured in China are often coated with a shiny 'golden" layer for creating a more attractive appearance. however since the application demands safety, the coating may not meet the safety requirement. Moreover, the base material may/may not also be as per specifications.
So, always make it a point to check for any unnecessary or possibly harmful coatings on the tool surface.
6.Environmental Condition- It matters!
In the above points, we have spoken about the tool itself - its specifications, sizes, properties etc. But it is equally important to consider the environment in which the tools will be used. As we have seen above that there are variety of tools materials and may or may not have any coatings. For general purpose conditions these tools don't pose any risk, but in special environments like in a chemical factory or a gas plant care has to be taken.
For instance, for clean room applications, humid work environments or near sea water - corrosion-resistant tools like stainless steel should be used. Regular steel tools are prone to rusting and wear.
Another example is when we are working with acetylene gas which is highly flammable gas. MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) of acetylene gas or any other form of acetylene will mandate you to use only Non-Sparking Hand Tools. We can use Copper Titanium, Copper Beryllium and Aluminum Bronze - the three commercially available know non-sparking materials and comply with safety.
But there is a catch!
Under certain conditions Copper reacts with acetylene exothermically and forms an explosive compounds. All the above non-sparking materials have a very high copper content which increases the chances of forming the explosive compound in case of a leak. It is recommended that any material with copper less than 65% significantly reduces the risk of reaction. Since all the three alloys have Copper more than 65% they are not recommended for use with acetylene gas.
To overcome the above challenge, Pahwa MetalTech has developed a special alloy -Actool, a low copper content alloy (Copper less than 65%) which is also certified for Non-Sparking properties and can be used in acetylene environments.
7.Old is not gold- Know when to replace your tools.
Tools, like any other equipment, have a fixed life which is mostly dependent on
How frequently the tool is used.
How it is used.
The environment conditions.
Eventually, all tools will start to wear out and one must understand the right time to replace them. Wearing out of edges, loosing of handles, blunt edges, rust on the surface, etc., are all signs that tell you it’s time to replace the tool.
You should always inspect your tools before use and on a timely basis.
8.More Jugaad, More Problems
Oftentimes, users have no other option but to fabricate a tool on-site to perform a certain task due to the unavailability of a standard tool. However, users must be aware that while such “jugaad” tools may do the job temporarily, they can cause severe damage in the long term. They can be poorly engineered and therefore unsafe.
An accident took place in an Oil Depot of an Oil Marketing Company. A rake carrying MS (Motor Spirit) and HSD (High Speed Diesel) was stationed at the Depot for unloading. The operator were using fabricated steel tool (picture attached) to open valves on the wagons. The steel tool slipped and fell on the railway track creating spark. The vapors present in the environment ignited and two wagons caught fire. To avoid such incidents Pahwa MetalTech has developed special Non-Sparking Hand Tools in Copper Titanium and Aluminum Bronze to prevent such a mishap from happening again. To know more read about the solutions here. They also customize Non-Sparking Hand Tools as per customers requirement, with a minimum order quantity of one.
As a user, you must be wary of any jugaad tools and immediately switch to properly-engineered, industry-developed tools.
9.Get a Box or a Bag
Last but an important point. Always ensure that your tools are stored in the right, clean & dry environment secured in proper storage containers or boxes. This will ensure the effectiveness of your tools and also enhance its longevity.
In conclusion, as simple as hand tools are, we can still to be prone to accidents caused by them. However, by following very basic precautions, knowing your hand tools and by doing preliminary quality checks, one can avoid the chances of any mishaps or accidents, and put the tools to their best use.
Liked the article? Share it with the link below with your colleagues and let them become experts like you!