Staving off the dangers of DIY

Hammering home safety first

By Antoinette Price

In an age of innovation and constant technological evolution, the availability of a wide variety of affordable and easy-to-use power tools enables many people to maintain their homes and gardens rather than calling in the professionals.

tc-3_Power tool Circular saw

Tools for tinkering

Whether you are trimming the lawn, hanging a picture, cutting through metal or sanding a surface, there’s a tool for just about every job, ranging from mains-operated, electric-powered and robotic battery-powered lawn mowers, edge trimmers, garden vacuums and blowers to hand-held motor-operated or magnetically driven electric tools, including drills, screwdrivers, impact wrenches, grinders, planers, polishers and disk-type sanders, hammers, spray guns for non-flammable liquids, shears and nibblers, tappers and an array of saws (arm, band, bench, chain, circular, reciprocating jig and sabre). Also on the list are drain cleaners, cut-off machines, diamond drills with water supply and threading machines. IEC International Standards contribute towards the technical, functional and safety aspects of all these products.

Following the fads

IEC Technical Committees (TCs) have played a significant role in delivering the technologies, through the preparation of International Standards for components and parts used in these appliances, as well as of safety Standards.

IEC TC 116 was established in 2008 to manage the expanding scope of International Standards needed for the safety of hand-held motor-operated electric tools, transportable motor-operated electric tools, and garden appliances, while keeping pace with new technologies. Previously this work fell to a Subcommittee of TC 61: Safety of household and similar electrical appliances.

With a view to harmonizing its wide-ranging work, TC 116 began publishing a suite of International Standards in 2014. Unifying the three areas under IEC 62841, with around 90 publications, the Standard covers general and specific safety requirements of electric motor-operated hand-held tools (part 2), transportable tools (part 3) and lawn and garden machinery (part 4). It is expected to eventually replace the three Standards that preceded it.

Running through the safety drill

As well as taking full account of these Standards, users must take additional precautions to operate power tools as safely as possible. They include reading instruction guidelines, wearing protective clothing (footwear, goggles, masks) and being aware of their immediate working environment (water, heat or potentially explosive atmospheres). Some of the safety points in the Standard include:

  • markings and instructions - warnings are marked on tools and contained in instruction manuals. There are also verbatim warnings, meaning these same warnings must be used by all manufacturers worldwide
  • avoiding mechanical hazards, such as providing adequate blade guards for circular saws. This is a very important section of the Standard since there are specific requirements for different tools  
  • ensuring mechanical strength, so that the equipment endures during use
  • protecting against electric shock
  • testing equipment to avoid overheating, which could lead to fire or hazard
  • making sure the tools are resistant to external heat, if so exposed
  • testing in conditions of high moisture or dust
  • providing adequate safety circuit breakers for cutting tools such as hedge trimmers. These allow the machinery to shut down automatically when contact is lost

Future trends

As the power tool industry continues to grow, cordless power tools will eventually overtake the corded segment. Following this trend, TC 116 is currently studying the possibility of increasing battery capacity for global markets which are constantly on the lookout for higher performing, more efficient products. It will also carry on its work to ensure hobbyists and professionals alike have the safest possible tools at their disposal.

tc-3_Power tool Circular saw
tc-3_Power drill Power drill
tc-3_bosch_cordless_tools Power tool set (Photo: Bosch)