How to Work Safely With Hand Tools

As professional arborists, hand tools are essential to our line of work. However, even the most basic of hand tools can cause serious injury on the job. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 31,350 cases of injury caused by non-powered hand tools in 2018 — which is nearly three times the amount of injuries caused by powered hand tools.


Even when you’re using familiar, everyday hand tools, it’s advisable to carefully follow safety protocols to prevent accidents or injuries. So, before you break out the hand tools on your next job, make sure to reacquaint yourself with hand tool safety best practices and guidelines.  

Proper Training and Instruction for Every Tool

The first step to using hand tools safely is knowing how to use them properly. Before you use any hand tool, make sure you have received the proper training and instruction. You should also read each tool’s manufacturer instructions. This applies to even the most basic of hand tools. 


If you need to use a certain hand tool and have not received instruction or training, notify your supervisor before beginning the work. Even if you only need to complete a quick task, improper operation can cause injury. 

Know How to Select the Right Tool for Each Job

Once you’ve learned to use each tool, you should develop an understanding of how to select the right tool for each job. Never use a tool for a different purpose than it is intended.


As OSHA recommends, before climbing a tree, you should survey the worksite, assess what tools you need and only carry the hand tools and equipment necessary for climbing. By carrying unnecessary hand tools, you increase the chances of an item accidentally dislodging and falling onto workers below you. Plus, the extra clutter may decrease your mobility. 


When selecting a tool, ask yourself:

  • Does this tool work for the task?
  • Does this tool fit for the amount of workspace available?
  • Can I use this tool in a comfortable and safe working position?
  • Does this tool properly fit my hands?
  • Is this the best tool for reducing the amount of manual force I need to apply?

If your job has a tight workspace or other complicated factors and you are unsure which tools are best for the job, consult your supervisor before proceeding. 

Inspect Hand Tools Before Use

Always inspect any tool before using it. Check for:

  • Loose or cracked heads
  • Cracked, splintered or weakened handles
  • Dull blades
  • Rust
  • Irregular wear
  • Out-of-the-ordinary details that can affect the tool’s performance.

If you identify damage, or if a tool unexpectedly breaks or malfunctions during use, set it aside, tag it as “damaged” or “defective” and notify your supervisor. This is an important step that prevents any other works from potentially using a damaged tool that could cause injury.

Follow Appropriate Work Practices for Each Hand Tool

Always follow standard work practices when using hand tools. This includes wearing the right safety equipment, following the correct procedures, and ensuring proper grip by working with clean hands that are not oily, dirty or greasy. Use hand tools with your dominant hand.


When using a sharp hand tool, carry it in a sheath or holster. Never carry sharp or pointed objects in your pockets, and take caution when handing over sharp tools to others.

Maintain Hand Tools Regularly

Maintain the integrity and longevity of your tools by cleaning after use and returning it to its proper storage place. Most hand tools come with specific maintenance instructions that you should regularly keep up with. For example, tools with a sharp blade may need to be sharpened on a regular basis — dull tools can actually be more hazardous than sharp tools.


Before your next job, take time to review our recommended hand tool safety guidelines and keep the above considerations in mind. At Townsend Tree, we are dedicated to providing a safe work environment for all of our associates. By following all safety protocols for hand tools, you help strengthen our culture of safety and prevent accidents on the job.

Posted: 10/8/2020 5:12:19 PM by Global Administrator