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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

8 of the most lethal tools in your home shop

Working on cars is inherently dangerous. Just like driving, spinning wrenches on a vehicle requires respect and undivided attention. We all accept a certain amount of risk when taking on DIY projects, and I'm willing to bet that the percentage of people who have left every single one of their projects without a scrape or bruise to be less than one.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/maintenance-and-tech/8-of-the-most-lethal-tools-in-your-home-shop/
115 REPLIES 115
Snailish
Gearhead

Worked with a guy that had a drill bit shear off in a hand drill. He drove the piece left in the chuck through the back of his left hand. Messed him up a bit.

Was on a job site on a roof when a roofer got careless with a utility knife, sliced the palm side of his thumb to the bone.

Have seen people do crazy things with grinders including removing all handles and safety guards while running blades meant for other devices.

All these situations it is the operator and not the tool that was the problem. The broken drill bit the guy years later admitted he was pushing hard on it.
1fastcat
Intermediate Driver

Made me think of the roofer that had a hatchet imbeded in his head by the guy working in frint of him .True story , late 80's .
DaveP
Detailer

remind me not to read this when I am eating lunch!
TG
Technician

Both of your examples sound like the hazards of dull tools. If you are pushing on a drill hard enough to snap a bit and drive the remainder through your hand, it is time to learn how to sharpen drill bits
MustangJim
Technician

Every example here is true but sometimes doing the simplest things are riskiest. I've learned to be careful with the types of tools listed ( except buying jack stands from harbor freight that later were recalled but that was not my fault. Unless you want to say it is because I bought cheap bleep jackstands). What I find most dangerous now are the simple things, like just taking out the hacksaw to cut I simple whatever and because it's just one thing for a minute holding it in young and rather then use a vise,,,the stupid stuff. And the bleep was intended, it was not tech eror.
1fastcat
Intermediate Driver

I'd be lost without my welder and bridgeport mill . I make as many parts as I can .
Air compressor is a must have as well .
Tinkerah
Engineer

We're all in envy but this is a column about safety.

SS396
Intermediate Driver

Great advice......especially spontaneous combustion!!
Timbo
Detailer

Can we get a chemistry genius to tell us what NOT to combine? Do it by brand name as we regular folks wouldn't recognize chemical compounds.
Srmert
Detailer

Don’t combine anything unless it is meant to be (paint and reducer, epoxy and hardener) and then there is no problem. Read the directions on every container and down load the SDS from the manufacturers web site. You are always the best person to assure your own safety!
GRP_Photo
Instructor

No genius, but it's basically simple. ANY reactive product is a problem. The basic ones are anything with oil in them. Oil combines with oxygen to harden and produces heat while it does. Since oil is also flammable, oil-soaked rags get tossed in the back yard at my house.
Epoxies react with hardeners. Same deal.
Two-part paints (see "epoxies" above).
Timbo
Detailer

Didn't Srmert say it's OK to combine epoxy and hardener? As a young modeler, I recall using fiberglass and the coating heated up immediately.
GRP_Photo
Instructor

Smert is incorrect. As you noticed, epoxy generates heat as it cures. Wait until it cures before tossing rags in the trash.
surfdrifter
Pit Crew

Grinders are what sketch me out. Saw a guy using a small angle grinder to remove grease & such from a large commercial kitchen hood. He didn't see the cable dangling down until it got caught by the grinder wheel. Took that grinder back up across his palm & up his forearm faster than he could scream. Cut tendons, flesh, everything. He regained only partial use of his hand. Young man, too.
dd1
Detailer

One thing I learned from an old mechanic is that it's best to wear a short sleeve shirt when doing engine work. Long sleeves could get caught in running belts, fans, etc.
Timbo
Detailer

And blood running down a greasy arm is always such a colorful sight.
hunternicholas
Detailer

Rings on your fingers pose an electrical hazard. Generally, electricians won't wear rings.
okfoz
Advanced Driver

My dad never wore a ring because he worked at Buick, He saw one guy jump from a stack of boxes and his ring got caught when jumping down and it took his finger out of his hand. Also using large machinery, people would get their rings stuck on things and get their hand crushed.
Greg_I
Hagerty Employee

Honorable mention should be your garage refrigerator. Well, the beer inside of it to be more specific. It always seems like that first vintage label beer goes down too easy, so you're then reaching for another. Not being on your game when using the tools mentioned above can make them all the more dangerous.

 

Besides, a PBR, Miller, Old Style, etc. just tastes all the better after a successful garage session while you're cleaning your tools.

Timbo
Detailer

Beer with tune-ups are one thing: If it goes awry, you can always get a car to start later; brake jobs are another story - if the car doesn't stop, you and others may be dead.
MustangJim
Technician

I am far from being one who abstains from a nice cold beer but I never had the desire to drink while working on a car. After finishing, time for a nice cold one , or two.
Jimmyo
Intermediate Driver

Great point, drinking and using tools is asking for it.
Greg
New Driver

I know most of your readers are not beginners here, but it's a shame that you include the photo of the chuck key left in the drill press chuck without as much as a red arrow or other indicator of it being unacceptable. Just ONE beginner seeing that mistake and not being warned is one person waiting to see the key fly in person, possibly the last thing a particular eye might see. It's an article about SAFETY, after all!
Kyle
Moderator

A fair point. The angle of the photo might make it appear as though the chuck key is in the Jacobs chuck, but in fact it is tied on a twist tie hanging out of the way so it both does not get left in the chuck and also does not get lost.
EventHorizons
Intermediate Driver

When I learned to be a machinist I was taught to NEVER leave the key in the lathe chuck. I made it a habit to not even let go of the key until it is back in its storage slot. I have growled many times at fellow machinists for just that.

Also, the first upgrade I make to a drill press is to get a keyless chuck! Worth their weight in gold for the time you save!.
GRP_Photo
Instructor

I keep my key in a small drawer beside the drill press. I found the variations on twist ties unsatisfactory. My press actually has a clip mounted on it to hold the chuck key, but I prefer the drawer.
red-on-red
Intermediate Driver

I just stuck a strong magnet to the frame on the drill press, and stick the chuck key to the magnet. ... Gary
Jake
Intermediate Driver

Also, that drill press vice doesn't look as if it is secured to the drill press table. Without bolting (preferred) or clamping it to the table, all you're doing is adding some additional mass for the drill press to sling around when the bit gets stuck.
coop
Intermediate Driver

I think you mean "vise".
FigueroB
Intermediate Driver

Without undue care?
Kyle
Moderator

Sharp eye! I've corrected that.
topside
Advanced Driver

Well, I'll have you know that I can make ANY tool lethal ! I've literally bled on every major project over the last 40-some years. Seriously, though, a good reminder. My advice - trust me on this - is to work at a measured pace and not try to rush the task at hand. Think and visualize before and during your wrench session, and minimize - if not avoid - distractions that impair focus.
barfle
Intermediate Driver

I’d like to add trying to finish just that one little task when you’re tired. I had a tendency to see if I could do one more thing in order to get to a good “stopping point.” Recognizing when you should quit for the day isn’t something most younger wrenchers can do yet.
RJ
Detailer

I mentally link this to the comment above, regarding beer. Working with a couple of friends on race car projects, whoever lost concentration first rang a bell on the shop wall. That was the signal to down tools and grab a beer - never before.
hunternicholas
Detailer

Absolutely, well said and true.
hunternicholas
Detailer

Well said, topside.
timwahl215
New Driver

It has taken myself a long time to learn the lesson "if this seems too tight or isn't coming apart easily, something isn't right". This goes back to the ego part and grabbing for a larger breaker bar, or finding that hidden bolt before smashing your knuckles on sharp metal (or rust) trying to break something loose.
GRP_Photo
Instructor

Or discovering too late that it's a left-hand thread nut.
Gary_Bechtold
Specialist

Very good points.

I could joke about paper because those cuts hurt!
RickL
Advanced Driver

Buffing wheel for me. I did one of the dumbest things in the garage. I was buffing some stainless, with shield on, gloves, apron. I took shield off and there was something on my prescription glasses, just hit quick with the buffer. Zing, there went my glasses, all mangled up. Worse part is going in to tell my wife. Ay, yi, yi. Stupid In, Stupid Out. Lesson learned.
SLD
Intermediate Driver

Exactly right. Similar thing happened to me years ago, but I wasn't working with any power tools. I was disassembling an ignition cylinder when its retaining spring snapped. Part of the spring zinged off my glasses. Now I wear safety glasses when I'm doing any work with any tools around my car or house.
majorbob
Intermediate Driver

I have been turning wrenches for 50 years. Yeah, I know I am old but in that 50 years I have learned some serious safety lessons. Some of those lessons nearly put an end to me. Now I am super safety minded. I have a well equipped shop at my home. It contains some great tools, like an automotive lift, lots of special purpose automotive tools and quality hand tools.
In my early years I would take crazy chances thinking that nothing could happen to me. Several times this stupid attitude resulted in serious injury and on one occasion nearly killed me.
Based on my experience I have 3 rules set in stone that I never violate:
1: Safety before speed. This means make sure your equipment is proper for the job and safe to use and that you understand the job and have the knowledge and ability to perform the job.

2: Never panic. Sometimes, even when you are careful, prepared and efficient things go wrong. When this happens panic will kill you. Stay calm and maintain control so you can think and act to get yourself and your vehicle out of danger.
3: Education is your friend. I have a degree in Industrial Engineering Automotive technology. I have taken number of automotive technology courses and though I am retired, I continue to take refresher courses both in physical classes and online.
I still love to tinker, repair and improve my classic vehicles and I can always learn new procedures and information.
So buy the tools for the job, take the time to learn how to use them and be safe so you can grow old too.
hunternicholas
Detailer

Very well said, thank you. We always need to be listening to the seniors among us.
Camarojoe
Detailer

Great list. Reality is that any tool where a high level of torque is applied can hurt someone.. All you have to do, even when used properly, is have a screwdriver slip and skin up a knuckle or worse.
MrBill-1943
Advanced Driver

Perfect 10 for the top 8. The Drill Press can really be a danger as many, many years ago a drill bit caught on the metal plate that I was expanding into a 3/4" hole in a portable vice. Drill caught and swing both out bending the top of the 3/4" dill bit that I had turned down so it fit in the chuck...never did that again. Other thing I learned was never wear a ring when working in or around machines etc. as I saw a kid almost lose a finger due to a three jaw chuck on a lathe drop on this ring finger.
Jake
Intermediate Driver

Amen on the ring. I ALWAYS take my ring off and put it on my key chain when I am in the shop, even if it is one of those "this will only take a second" jobs.
0luke1
Pit Crew

Take off your wedding ring, watch and any other jewelry. Disconnect the battery and don’t trust those green screw off disconnects.
Callen
Intermediate Driver

That brings back a memory for me. I never wore a ring until I got married. We took my 67 mustang notch back on our honeymoon and when we returned the battery was dead on my wife's car, a 67 mustang GTA fastback. When I was jump starting it I attached both cable ends of the jumper cables attached to my car (another safety no-no) and while holding one cable end n one had, which was touching the ring on the palm side, I accidently tapped the top of the ring with the other cable end. Blew a small hole in the edge of the ring and left a circular burn mark on my finger.
RJ
Detailer

Battery charger! I expected to see it first on the list. Also I think about how dangerous some jobs would be without some of those tools.

I'm 10 miles from our all-volunteer fire department - something always on my mind - esp. when cutting with the torch or tossing out an oily rag.