Safe systems of working

Lesson Progress:


To operate powered hand tools and equipment independently you must be competent. Your employer has a responsibility to make sure you have been given suitable training for any equipment you need to use. To be competent you will have undergone training to give you the knowledge, understanding and skills required to use tools safely and work in safety.

  • You need knowledge of the tool and the hazards associated with its use.
  • You must have an understanding of the environment the tool is to be used in and its limitations.
  • You must be trained and authorised to use certain tools (abrasive wheels and grinding discs, for example).
  • You need to first use the tool under supervision to build up your experience with it.

Before using any tool or equipment

  • Make sure it is the right tool for the job.
  • Carry out a pre-use inspection and checks.
  • Make sure it has been maintained and is safe to use and, if required, has had a valid portable appliance test (PAT) carried out (usually identified by a sticker on the tool or equipment).
  • If you are unsure about any of these points – ask your supervisor.
The correct tools, equipment and PPE needed should be listed in the method statement and/or safe system of work for the task.

Guards and safety features

  • Make sure all guards or other safety features (such as emergency stops) are in place and working properly.
  • Make sure all guards or other safety features are properly adjusted to minimise any gap between the work piece and any moving part.
  • Always use tools and equipment properly, and in line with your training.
  • Always isolate the power and remove the plug from the socket when changing drill bits, blades, or adjusting guards on power tools.
  • Never carry out any makeshift repairs or modifications to guarding systems. This includes electrical repairs (for example, changing a fuse) unless you are trained, competent and authorised to do so.

Protect yourself

  • Do not use electrical equipment in wet or damp conditions. Air or fuel powered equipment should be used.
  • Keep hands away from moving parts.
  • Avoid loose clothing. (Baggy sleeves and cords hanging from hoods or jackets have caused several serious injuries.)
  • Make sure power leads don’t get entangled in moving parts.
  • Wear eye protection suitable for the task to be carried out and the tool being used.
  • You may need to wear suitable hearing protection, identified in the risk assessment, due to the noise level of most power tools.
  • You may need to wear suitable respiratory protection (such as a half mask respirator), identified in the risk assessment, due to the dust created by many power tool activities.
  • Make sure that you do not exceed the daily safe vibration exposure limits when using vibrating tools. Information about the vibration level of a tool should be included in the method statement and/or safe system of work for the task.
Refer to Chapter 8 Noise and vibration for further information.