How to Avoid Common Power Tool Accidents

Power Tool Puncture Wounds
Puncture wounds happen most often because fingers get too close to the drill bit.
Puncture wounds happen most often because fingers get too close to the drill bit.

Puncture wounds include any wound that creates a hole with a specific entry point into the skin. Similar to lacerations or amputations, puncture wounds are also most prevalent in the fingers and hands. "Usually it is someone holding something to drill through it, and the drill works very nicely," says Dr. Sacchetti. "It goes right through what they are holding and right through the hand that's holding it."

These injuries are usually done with drills, electric screwdrivers and even staple or nail guns [source: Josephson]. According to a report analyzing data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Center for Disease Control, from 2001-2005, an average of approximately 37,000 patients were treated for nail-gun injuries at U.S. hospital emergency departments annually with 40 percent of those injuries occurring to non-professionals [source: Lipscomb].

While many of these injuries are less serious than a laceration or amputation, they can still be very painful. "I did manage to put a power drill's Phillips screwdriver bit through my non-dominant left thumbnail, totally obliterating the nail bed, two years ago," says Dr. Richard K. Turner, Doctor's Medical Center in San Pablo, Calif., and spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians. "The thumbnail has almost grown back to pre-accident status. Man, that hurt!"

Taking proper precautions is the key to reducing the risk of injury. Here are some safety tips to reduce the risk of puncture wounds:

  • Read the owner's manual for the tool you are using.
  • Wear snug-fitting leather or suede construction gloves when working. It won't prevent an accident, but it will offer an extra layer of protection.
  • For nail guns, be sure to keep your finger off the trigger when not firing.
  • For drills, don't force the tool, apply only the pressure needed to steady it.

From puncture wounds to amputations, power tools certainly have the potential to change a small project into a disaster. Yet, with good safety habits, the chance for injury can be greatly reduced. "Before anybody starts a project like that take a moment to reflect on: What am I going to lose here and how willing am I to give it up? If you're not willing to give it up, do what's needed to protect yourself," says Meri-K Appy, president of the Home Safety Council.

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