Hand and Portable Powered Tools

This safety and health topic covers the use of hand tools and portable powered tools including, but not limited to: explosive-actuated fastening tools; portable abrasive wheels; portable power tools (e.g., circular saws, drills, etc.); power lawnmowers; jacks; and abrasive blast nozzles.

Hand and Portable Powered Tools

Tab/Accordion Items

What are the hazards associated with the use of hand and portable powered tools?

Injuries from hand tools are generally the result of improper maintenance or misuse of the tool. Failure to keep knives, hand saw blades and axes sharpened may require the user to exert extra force causing the tool to slip and injuring the employee. Additionally, the use of regular tools such as wrenches where non-sparking tools are required can result in fires due to ignition of flammable vapors caused by a spark.

Improper use and maintenance of electrical and pneumatic powered portable tools can result in serious injury and harm to the user. Removing guards around saw blades and chain drives can result in serious cuts and amputation of appendages. Electrical cords on portable tools that are carried by the cord or improperly unplugged can result in breaks in the cord insulation and lead to exposed, live wires when plugged in. Similarly, missing ground pins on the cords of tools designed for three-prong connection or failure to user GFCI protection in outdoor and wet locations can quickly lead to electrocution.

What can I do to protect myself and others?

Engineering and Work Practice Controls. Following a few basic rules will greatly reduce the risk of injury when using hand and portable power tools. Examine each tool before use and do not use if damaged. Keep all tools in good condition with regular maintenance. Use the right tool for the job. Use tools according to the manufacturers’ instructions.

Personal Protective Equipment. Provide and use the correct personal protective equipment when using hand and portable power tools, including work gloves and hearing protection.

What resources are available to assist employers?

Training and Outreach Services

Presentations on a variety of topics associated with hand and portable powered tools are available to assist employers in training their staff. These include: hand and power tools (construction); electrical safety; machinery and machine guarding; noise exposure; and personal protective equipment. Each of these presentations should be modified to address site-specific conditions and hazards. 

In addition, the education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request. 

Lastly, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos (including streaming video services) and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC).

Safety and Health Programs

Example safety and health programs are available are available for employers to download and adapt to their specific conditions. Safety and health programs relative to hand and portable power tools include: chain saw policy; general industry safety inspection checklists; hearing conservation program; job hazard analysis; and personal protective equipment program.

A-Z Safety and Health Topics

More information related to hand and portable power tools can be found on the A-Z topics pages for electrical safety, amputationsmachine guarding, noise, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Consultation Services 

The consultative services bureau provides free and confidential onsite consultation regarding worksite safety and health hazards.

Which standards apply?

OSH has adopted the following standards which are applicable to hand and portable powered tools in North Carolina. Note: Please also check the standards information and activity webpage to see if there has been any recent or upcoming regulatory activity on this topic. 

General Industry

  • 1910 Subpart O - machinery and machine guarding

    • 1910.212 - general requirements for all machines

    • 1910.213 - woodworking machinery requirements

  • 1910 Subpart P - hand and portable powered tools and other hand-held equipment

    • 1910.241 - definitions

    • 1910.242 - hand and portable powered tools and equipment, general.

    • 1910.243 - guarding of portable powered tools.

    • 1910.244 - other portable tools and equipment

Maritime, Shipyard Employment


Other Applicable Standards

The Which OSHA Standards Apply webpage can also help identify other standards that may be applicable to this topic.

Where can I learn more?

Compliance Documents

Industry Guides

Technical Assistance

If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to ask.osh@labor.nc.gov or by calling 919-707-7876.