Cartoon are rife with characters holding up a swelled, throbbing thumb caused by banging it with a hammer, trying to do some do-it-yourself home maintenance. The hammer is one of the most basic tools for a homeowner and one of the most useful. Unfortunately, users tend to take its operation for granted.
Workers and homeowners might scoff at the need for health and safety courses on Hammering 101, but the low-tech hammer can cause major injuries if not used correctly. Over 30,000 people are injured each year using hammers, most damage caused to fingers hit inadvertently and to the face from recoil and from debris blowing back. Called an impact tool, its force can indeed have a harmful impact on the human body.
Handle with Care
Handles are the way a worker or do-it-yourselfer makes contact with the hammer and controls its path. Making sure it is in top shape reduces the chance of most injuries.
A safe handle is free of oil so the handyman can get a firm grip on it. The shape should be ergonomic to properly fit a person’s hand. This helps him hit the nail with precision. The more control you have, the fewer times you need to swing it and the less chance there is the swing will go astray.
Different home repair and worksite jobs call for different handle lengths and weights. Be sure to match the tool to the requirements of the job. Never use a hammer with a cracked handle, or one that is loose or splintered.
The Hammer Head
Hammer heads are made to be strong and unyielding, packing a lot of power. When imperfections make it to break, it can cause significant injury. If it breaks and flies off while you’re swinging it, you or people in its path can get clobbered.
Another major cause of accidents is a chipped hammer head. The chance of chips is increased by these four factors:
- when the corners are square
- the strength with which a worker swings it
- the harder the user hits the nail or other object
- the more angles there are between the hammer face and the object being hit
Remember these four points to avoid problems caused by hammer head issues:
- don’t use a hammer has has developed a rounded strike face
- don’t strike a hammer face with another hammer
- the claws on a nail hammer are not made to be used as pry bars
- don’t use a hammer with a chip on the face
Proper Use of a Hammer
After you’ve determined that your hammer is in good shape, use good form when you use it. Since hammers are so common and low tech, there is a myth that anyone can use one effectively and safely, that there is simply no trick to using one. It’s not true. Something that hard, operated with aim of creating maximum force and impact, needs careful handling if the operator is to be safe. You probably don’t need the help of health and safety courses to operate one efficiently and without injury, but you do need to use common sense.
When using a hammer, always try to hit the surface flat and squarely. Never attempt to hit the head of a nail at an angle. This often leads to injuries of the hand because you lose control of it.
Goggles are a good precaution for anyone with a hammer. The chance of debris blowing back into your face is real. Wood splinters, metal chips or bits from a wall or other construction material can injure your eyes. Safety goggles virtually eliminate this problem.
Start your hammering with a series of light taps that help to push the nail or other object into the surface, making it much more stable in the process. Hitting a stable target lessens the chance of injury.
When you swing the hammer, carefully draw it back, using your wrist to produce the power as you move your hand back down to hit the nail. Face injuries often happen because the worker pulls the hammer up and back wildly in an effort to produce more power for the downward hit. The more control you have, the less chance of injury.
Hammers are decidedly low tech. But never doubt their ability to cause serious injury if not used correctly. Stay safe by examining it before each use, looking for signs of wear and damage, and operating it with control.
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