Question? If an employee brings a modified or faulty tool into the workplace; and then incurs an injury related to this tool, the onus will fall on the employee... right?
WRONG! The employer is responsible for the activities that are carried out and the tools and equipment that are used. If you allow personal tools to be used in your workplace then this means you have a responsibility to ensure that these tools are suitable for the task and safe for use. By failing to do so you are essentially giving permission to use faulty or unsuitable tools and equipment.
If your workplace has a workshop environment then it is probable that some employees have brought some of their own tools and equipment in to do the job. If you do not control this then you have no idea what tools and equipment is on site and what condition it is in.
Now, when I talk about tools and equipment, generally I am talking about tools with an output (battery, mains electric or air powered) rather than hand tools such as spanners, wrenches etc. With this said you would also want to extend this to working at height equipment such as ladders, mobile towers, harnesses or fall arrest systems etc.
Many times I have been on a site inspection and seen personal equipment that has had critical safety guards removed, cracks on the body, damaged plugs or cables, noise filters removed etc. All of which increases the risk of serious injury which is clearly what we want to avoid as an employer.
So… what do you need to do? Well, first of all, the best thing you can do in relation to controlling the risk of personal tools is to not allow personal tools in the first place! If you provide all the tools and equipment, required then you have full control to ensure the equipment is the correct tool for the job, meets industry standards, has the correct safety guards fitted, is under noise and vibration limits and that suitable PPE is available for them. This would be the simpler option. If however this is not a suitable option for your business then there are some simple measures for making sure any personal tools that are on site meet the required standards.
Personal Tools / Equipment Policy
Firstly you will need to create a company policy in relation to personal tools on site. This should include a definition of personal tools, any prohibited tools, the employees responsibility for personal tools, declaration or personal tools and maintenance and inspection of personal tools. The policy should clearly outline all matters regarding personal tools on site and should be appropriately communicated and understood by all personnel, particularly those employees with personal tools and management.
Personal Tools Register
Any employee that uses or stores personal tools and equipment on site should be required to maintain a personal tool register. This is an easy way that management can have an accurate register of the tools on site and record key details such as PAT dates, maintenance inspections dates, noise and vibration outputs etc. This should be updated on a quarterly basis as a minimum by an appropriate line manager or senior staff member.
Regular tool / equipment inspections should be carried out by management periodically. It makes sense that this is carried out during the tool register process. The line manager or senior staff member should go to all employees, check that all tools and equipment are listed on the register, the items are in good condition and have the correct safety guards and signage in place, and are in safe condition (no obvious signs of damage)
Prohibited Tools List
It’s worth noting at this point that you should try to prohibit items of significant risk such as equipment involving abrasive wheels, (cutters grinders) welding equipment, equipment with high noise or vibration outputs such as air chisels etc. This is because if there are tools / equipment with specific or high hazards then you would want to ensure that specific and adequate controls are in place.
By following the above 4 steps you will be creating a safer working environment and reducing the risk of unnecessary injuries involving work tools and equipment.
For further information on this or any other Health & Safety related matter, please feel free to get in touch with us: firstname.lastname@example.org and a member of our team will be happy to help.
Thank you for reading and please stay safe.
Jamie McPhie – Senior Health & Safety Advisor, KVF