Health and Safety

Taking care with materials, equipment and work procedures and dealing with hazards.

Tools and machinery

Maintaining and operating tools and machinery properly is one of the foundations of a healthy work site.


People using hand and power tools may be exposed to falling, flying or splashing objects, harmful dusts, fumes, vibrations or electrical hazards.

To be effective and safe for use, tools must:

  • be kept in good working order
  • be regularly maintained – electric tools require regular inspection and tagging as safe. See Electrical safety
  • be checked for damage before use – do not use damaged tools
  • if used for cutting, have cutting edges properly sharpened
  • only be used for the purpose for which the tool is designed
  • be operated according to the manufacturer’s instructions

For operator safety:

  • use dust masks when sanding, cutting or otherwise creating dust. See Personal protective equipment
  • fit on-tool extraction systems to power tools that produce dust
  • use face shields when using grinders
  • use eye protection with power-cutting tools and hand tools where flying chips are a risk
  • wear good quality ear muffs when operating power tools and equipment
  • feed all electrical tools used outside through an earth leakage protection device or an isolating transformer

Tool safety isn’t just an issue on site. Tools and materials being carried in a vehicle should also be secured. In one incident in the Waikato in early 2019, a driver was forced to brake very quickly and tools and timber flew forward from the back of his van and out through the windscreen. It was just good luck that he wasn’t hurt.

Another issue involving tools is that the lithium-ion batteries in cordless power tools are responsible for a growing number of fires. To reduce the risk of a lithium-ion battery fire:

  • don’t leave tools in locations where they can get very hot
  • don’t leave them connected to chargers for extremely long periods
  • make sure to use the right charger for the battery
  • use only recommended batteries, not cheaper counterfeits
  • dispose of batteries properly – do not add to ordinary rubbish

Finally, avoid subjecting a battery to excessive mechanical shock and/or vibration. Cracked, dented and/or compressed batteries can catch fire unexpectedly at any time.


Construction site machinery includes:

  • personnel and material hoists
  • cranes and lifting appliances
  • power-operated elevating working platforms
  • earth-moving machinery

Machinery must generally be:

  • used by qualified operators
  • used with appropriate safety gear
  • be maintained in a safe operating condition
  • have a current operating certificate, if required
  • used only for the work for which it is intended
  • be fitted with a roll-over protective structure (ROPS) in earth-moving machinery


Updated: 26 August 2022