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Reminder: Working with Power Tools


Members are urged to ensure that any worker operating power tools is appropriately trained to do so.

Before you require workers to attempt any tasks that are new or different, WorkSafe ACT requires all operators to be given training and instructions on the safe use of the power tool including:

  • how to hold the power tool safely, maintain good balance and footing at all times and avoid using it in awkward positions;
  • how to position the power tool so they are neither bending over nor standing directly behind the blade, especially when the guard is pulled back towards the top of the blade;
  • not over-reaching or holding the power tool above the line of the shoulder;
  • not cutting objects for which an abrasive blade is not intended; or
  • not using the power tool to pry or shovel away objects.

The Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (the Regulation) also prescribes mandatory testing and tagging for electrical power equipment used in an environment in which the normal use of electrical equipment exposes the operating conditions that are likely to result in damage or a reduction in its expected life span. This includes conditions that involve exposure to moisture, heat, vibration, mechanical damage, corrosive chemicals or dust.

Workplace Fatality in Victoria the Subject of Coronial Inquest

A landscaping company in Victoria was the subject of a recent coronial inquest after a fatality occurred on site. The deceased worker was using a modified and improperly maintained Mikita circular saw when it kicked back and caused the worker to sustain a serious leg wound then go into cardiac arrest as paramedics arrived at the scene. He was taken to hospital but died later that day.

The worker had been employed by the Victorian company for just four days when the fatal incident occurred. The work mainly consisted of installing posts and sleepers for garden beds and using circular and bench saws to cut these materials where required. The PCBU trained his staff on the safe handling of power tools verbally and instructed the workers not to use the saws when he was not present on site.

A WorkSafe Victoria investigation into the death was undertaken and WorkSafe issued three improvement notices requiring the company to provide proper instructions and training to employees to enable them to perform their work in a safe and healthy manner. The investigation also found:

  1. the PCBU had not completed any SWMS prior to the commencement of the works.
  2. The Mikita saw being used had been modified and was faulty.
  3. The Mikita manual showed a misaligned blade could cause a saw to lift out of a workpiece and jump back towards the operator.

The recent coronial inquiry highlights the serious dangers faced by inexperienced workers and posed by power tools, particularly tools with unsafe modifications or faults. The full details of the coronial inquest are published online here.