The University of Iowa

Tools - Hand and Portable Power


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA) regulates hand and power tools that are commonly used in carpentry shops, repair shops, machine shops, and construction and renovation activities. Hand and portable power tools include tools such as hammers, chisels, wrenches, and circular saws. Large equipment and fixed machinery are covered in a separate procedure called Machine and Equipment Guarding.
The following information, procedures, and resources will assist managers, supervisors, and operators in carrying out their responsibilities for assuring safety through hazard identification and evaluation, training, and safe operation of tools.

These procedures are intended to:

  • Create an awareness of the hazards among the workforce.
  • Standardize procedures for the use and care of tools.
  • Provide a consistent format for training employees on the proper procedures for operating and using tools.
  • Minimize the possibility of injury or harm.
  • Demonstrate compliance with safety regulations.

University of Iowa Policy Manual, Part III Human Resources, Division II Standards and Ethics, Chapter 16.4.d Policy on Ethics and Responsibilities for University of Iowa Staff.
General Industry Occupational Safety and Health Regulations, 29 CFR 1910, Subpart P.

Employees, as identified by their department, must successfully complete training prior to operating or using tools. Initial training includes two components: general awareness training and operational training. 

EHS offers general awareness training online.

  • Tool Safety - W154OS
    • This course provides awareness information on hazards of different types of tools and precautions for using them safely. Each department also has procedures and training specific to the operations in the employee's workplace.
    • Audience: Required initially and recommended annually for individuals working in any location where hand tools and portable power tools that require guarding are used on the job. 
  • For further training and registration information, go to EHS Safety Training.

Operational training is provided by the employing department and records are maintained by the department and should include:

  • A review of the department’s procedures.
  • Information and operational (hands-on) training for each machine and piece of equipment that will used by the employee.
  • Pre-operational procedures.
  • Basic maintenance procedures.
  • Appropriate use of personal protective equipment.

PPE and Work Area Checks

  • Employees must locate and put on necessary and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) before using or operating tools.
  • Employees must change clothing or take off jewelry that could become entangled in the tools they are to use.
  • Employees must make sure that work areas are well lit, dry, and clean before beginning work.

Tool Checks -Tools must be inspected prior to use to ensure that:

  • For tools with jaws, jaws are not sprung to the point of slippage.
  • For impact tools, they are free of mushroom heads.
  • For tools with wooden handles, the handles are free of splinters or cracks and are tight in the tool.
  • The tool is otherwise safe for use.
  • The supervisor is notified if tools are in need of repair.

Guard Checks - Tools with guards must meet these minimum general requirements:

  • Be secure - Removable guards are in place on the machine or equipment before use.
  • Prevent contact - Guards prevent any part of any employee’s body and clothing from making contact with dangerous moving parts.
  • Protect from falling objects - Guards ensure that no objects can fall into moving parts.
  • Be in working order - If a guard is defective, damaged, or in any way does not meet the requirements of these procedures, employees may not use the tool and must immediately notify their supervisor.
  • Employees must always use the proper tool for the job.
  • Employees may not remove a guard for any reason while operating tools.
  • Electric cables and cords must be kept clean and free from kinks.
  • Tools must not be carried by their cord. 
  • All necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) is worn while using tools.
  • If an employee is distracted or unable to focus on the work involving tool use, they must stop work with that tool.
  • Upon finishing with a tool, basic maintenance must be performed, for example the tool should be kept sharp, oiled, and stored properly, as appropriate.
  • Tools that are not working correctly and /or need to be fixed must be immediately reported to the supervisor so they can be repaired or replaced.

Periodic reviews, or audits, are required to determine the completeness and effectiveness of the program or procedures. A sample is available at EHS’s web site. Each department or unit will conduct a self-review at least annually and maintain a record of such. The review may include a walk-through of the facility and interviews with employees to determine whether they are familiar with requirements and if safety measures are being practiced.

The University encourages a clear understanding of safe work practices and involvement at every level. Involved individuals are encouraged to offer comments or seek assistance from the supervisor, the department Health and Safety Coordinator, department administrators, and EHS.  Supporting resources, training offerings, and audit samples can also be found on EHS's website.