Types of hand-held tools and equipment

Lesson Progress:

Abrasive wheels and diamond blades

Wear the appropriate PPE and make sure the guards are properly set

The following are common types of machine.

  • Petrol cut off saws (disc cutters).
  • Masonry bench saws.
  • Angle grinders.
  • Wall chasers and floor saws.
  • Tile cutters.

Abrasive wheels and diamond blades can burst, shatter or suffer high speed segment loss (fragmentation) in the following situations.

  • If the blade or disc is not compatible with the power tool.
  • If the blade or disc is not fitted correctly.
  • If the power tool is not used correctly.

You must be trained, competent and authorised to change or mount a wheel or blade.

When using cutting equipment, follow the safety rules listed below.

  • The speed of the wheel or blade must match the machine speed.
  • Only cut material the wheel or blade is guards made for.
  • Always follow the manufacturers’ inspection, maintenance and fault-finding guides.
  • Avoid using cutting equipment in confined spaces, where dust and fumes create a risk to safety and health. Use dust suppression wherever possible to reduce and/or collect dust created during the cutting activity.
  • You must wear high-impact eye protection when you are using abrasive wheels, disc cutters, cut-off saws or diamond blade cutters. Failure, shattering or fragmentation of a disc or blade can result in serious personal injury.
Using a concrete diamond blade on tarmac can seriously weaken the blade. The result is that the blade will fragment (disintegrate) and nail-sized segments can fly off at high speed (approximately 180 mph).
Poor practice and lack of concentration can lead to injuries

Cartridge-operated tools

  • These work like a gun by firing an explosive charge.
  • They are used to fire fixings into solid surfaces (such as concrete or steel columns).
  • They are very dangerous, especially in untrained hands.
  • You must be fully trained and authorised to use a cartridge-operated tool.
  • Suitable high-impact eye protection and hearing protection must be worn.
  • An exclusion zone must be in place during fixing operations.
  • Cartridge-operated tools need to be inspected, cleaned and lubricated regularly.

Compressed gas tools (nail guns)

Nail guns are similar to cartridge-operated tools but they use a compressor, gas canister or battery as the power source.

  • They should only be used by trained, competent and authorised persons.
  • High-impact eye protection must be worn. Eye protection must be replaced if it is scratched or damaged.
  • Disconnect the air pipe and remove the battery or fuel cell and remaining nails before clearing a blockage or cleaning.
  • They need to be inspected, cleaned and lubricated regularly.
  • Fuel cells or canisters must be disposed of correctly and not in general waste skips.
  • Tool manufacturers often offer free, on-site training.


  • Chainsaws can inflict serious injuries, including amputation.
  • The main hazard is that they have a fully exposed cutting chain with no protective guard.
  • Chainsaws can kick back (uncontrollably kick upwards towards the operator with the chain running).
  • You must be fully trained, competent and authorised to use a chainsaw, and be wearing full chainsaw protective body clothing and head protection.
Whip checks should be used on hose joints

Compressed air-powered tools

  • Compressed air tools are attached to a compressor using air hoses.
  • Tools include heavy duty breakers, soil picks, concrete scabblers and pokers.
  • High pressure air hoses can cause serious injury if they break away from the compressor or tool. Whip checks should be used on every hose joint to prevent this.
  • Always check hose fittings are tight and secure before use.

Refuelling petrol-driven hand tools

  • Petrol must be kept in approved containers, and never stored at the location where the work is being carried out.
  • Refuelling should only take place at a designated, authorised refuelling point. You will be told about this at site induction.
  • Refuelling areas should be well-lit and well-ventilated. Containers should be fitted with safe dispensing nozzles, otherwise a funnel should be used.
  • Do not refuel when the engine is running or when any parts are still hot.
  • Do not smoke while you are refuelling, or at the refuelling point.
Exhaust fumes are toxic and must not be allowed to build up in enclosed, poorly ventilated or confined spaces. Do not use petrol, diesel or LPG driven tools in a confined space or area with poor ventilation unless you have specific authority and a written safe system of work for the task. The safe system of work should include forced air ventilation and continuous gas monitoring.

Electrical hand tools

Ideally all electrical hand tools used on site should be battery operated or 110 volts.

Before every use you should carry out a visual inspection.

Check the power lead. Check for signs of damage where it enters the tool. Look to see if the cable’s internal wires are visible. Are there signs of burning (overheating)? Has the cable been pulled or used to carry the tool, or is the outer insulation of the cable damaged?

Check the plug. Is it damaged in any way? Does the plug show signs of burning? Can you see the internal wires of the cable? Is there a valid PAT label attached?

Check the socket. Is it damaged in any way? Does it show signs of burning? Is a RCD fitted? If a RCD is not fitted, test and fit a portable RCD unit before connecting the plug to the socket.

Before making any adjustments to electrical equipment you must switch off, disconnect and secure the plug so that the power cannot be reconnected by accident whilst adjustments are being made.

Non-powered hand tools

  • These may seem low risk, but are responsible for many injuries.
  • They need to be well maintained and regularly inspected.
  • Well used chisels and bolsters can form ‘mushroom heads’. When they are struck fragments can fly into the air and into the eye.
  • Loose handles, sharp and blunt blades and worn parts all pose a hazard.


  • If used correctly lasers should not pose a health hazard.
  • A rotating laser means it is difficult to look directly at the beam for more than an instant.
  • Static lasers (such as pipe lasers) pose more of a risk.
  • Exclusion zones and warning signs must be in place if high-powered lasers are being used.
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using any tool or equipment.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (Drones)

Small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) (also called drones) are becoming more widely available for construction activity.

Drones are being used to carry out surveys at height, in inaccessible areas and in dangerous environments, removing the risks for workers.

It is likely that drones will become commonplace on construction sites in the near future. If drones are operating on your site, do not interfere with their flight or distract the operator.