new york city work site injury attonery

The Danger of Hand and Power Tools on Construction Sites 

Busy construction sites are filled with activity where skilled laborers employ various tools to bring projects to life. While hand and power tools are essential for the job, they pose a significant safety risk to workers. If you are injured on a construction site in New York or New Jersey, our experienced construction accident injury attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer can help you seek justice and compensation.

Accidents and Injuries Caused by Hand and Power Tools

Hand and power tools are indispensable on construction sites. These tools, from drills and power saws to nail guns and hammers, help workers perform their tasks efficiently. However, the very convenience they offer can lead to accidents if not handled with care. Some common types of hand and power tool injuries include:

Cuts and lacerations

Sharp-edged tools like saws and utility knives can cause deep cuts and lacerations when mishandled or if they malfunction. Workers may suffer from severe bleeding and tissue damage as a result.

Struck-by accidents

Tools like hammers, wrenches, or power drills can become projectiles if dropped or not securely fastened. These can strike other workers, leading to head injuries, fractures, or concussions.


Power tools can pose electrical hazards if not properly grounded or maintained. Accidental contact with live wires or faulty tools can result in electrical burns, cardiac arrest, or even fatalities.

Repetitive stress injuries

Continuous use of hand tools can lead to conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome or tendinitis, causing pain and limited mobility in affected joints.

Abrasive wheel accidents

Grinding wheels and abrasive tools can shatter or explode during use if they are damaged or worn out. This can result in severe facial injuries, eye injuries, and even fatalities.

Crushing injuries

Machines like power saws and presses can trap a worker's hand or body part, causing severe crushing injuries or amputations.

Respiratory issues

Tools like sanders and grinders generate fine dust and particles that, if inhaled over time, can lead to respiratory problems and lung damage.

Who Could be Responsible for Construction Site Injuries

When accidents occur on construction sites, it's essential to determine who may be responsible for the injuries sustained. Several parties could be held liable, including:

  • Employers. Employers have the responsibility to ensure a safe working environment for their workers. This includes providing proper training and maintenance of tools. Failure to provide a safe environment could make them liable for injuries.
  • Tool manufacturers. If a tool malfunction or defect leads to an accident, the manufacturer could be held responsible for producing a faulty product.
  • Contractors and subcontractors. Those overseeing the construction project have a duty to maintain safety standards on-site. They may be held accountable if negligence or inadequate supervision leads to accidents.
  • Property owners. Property owners who allow construction on their premises also share responsibility for site safety. They may be held liable if their negligence contributes to accidents.

New York Industrial Code Hand Tool Requirements

New York Industrial Code Section 23.1-10 establishes the following safety regulations for hand tools on New York construction sites:

Unpowered Hand Tools

Manual or unpowered hand tools should not be used if their handles are loose or split. Additionally, edged tools must be kept sharp and maintained free of burrs and mushroomed heads.

Electrical and Pneumatic Hand Tools

There are three requirements for electrical and pneumatic hand tools.

First, there are power shut off requirements. Generally, before any adjustments or repairs are made to these tools, they must be disconnected from power sources and the pressure in hose lines must be released. The air must be shut off before disconnecting an air hose. There is an exception for replacement of bits in electric drills. Additionally, all electric and pneumatic hand tools must have a cut-off switch that is easily reachable by the tool’s operator.

Second, electric and hose lines must be guarded by location or by covering to prevent severe abrasions and tripping hazards.

Finally, many electrically operated hand tools must be grounded during use. One end of the ground wires should connect to the tool frame and the other end should be properly grounded. However, approved double-insulated type portable hand tools do not have to be grounded.

Guarding of Power-Driven Machinery in New York

New York Industrial Code Section 23.1-12 requires that power-driven machines be guarded in the following ways on New York construction sites:

Keys, Set Screws, and Similar Projects

Any protruding parts like keys, screws, bolts, etc., on rotating machinery parts like shafts, pulleys, gears, etc., must be covered to prevent accidental contact. This covering can be a smooth, round sleeve made of wood or metal around each protrusion, or there should be a fixed barrier made of materials like sheet metal or wire mesh. These barriers should have small enough openings that a ball one-half inch in diameter couldn't pass through.

Power-Driven Saws

Any handheld power saw that doesn't have a table, except for chain saws and circular brush saws, must have two guards. One guard above the base plate should fully protect the operator from touching the saw blade while it's running. The other guard below the base plate should move with the saw and cover the blade's teeth when it's not cutting. Every power-driven saw, except portable ones, must have a guard covering the blade to prevent touching the teeth. This guard should either rise automatically when cutting or be set so that the distance between the material and the guard is no more than half an inch. The exposed teeth under the table must also be guarded. There should be a switch near the operator to turn off the saw quickly. However, an arm saw with an enclosed upper blade and a front blocking bar doesn't need the automatic rising guard. Additionally, any table saw used for ripping wood must have a spreader fixed in place and a device to stop wood from kicking back.

Sprockets and Gears

Sprockets and gears which are not protected by location or design from accidental contact by persons must be completely enclosed or have band guards which cover the periphery and side flanges which extend below the roots of the teeth.

Belts, Pulleys, and Flywheels

All belts except conveyor belts and all pulleys and flywheels less than seven feet above the ground, floor, working platform, runway or equivalent surface where persons work or pass and which are not protected by location from accidental contact by persons, must have all moving parts guarded by substantial enclosures or by safety to prevent persons from approaching within a distance of 18 inches. Enclosures required by this Part (rule) may be temporarily removed when starting a machine or for machine adjustment or maintenance, but need to be replaced immediately thereafter.

Friction-Disc Drives

Friction-disc drives that are not guarded by design or location from accidental contact with any person must be completely enclosed or have band guards with side flanges.

Wire Rope

The nip points between power winches or sheaves and wire ropes shall be guarded by substantial enclosures or by safety railings.

Other rules apply to any power-driven machine not specifically mentioned above.

Possible Damages for Construction Site Accident Injuries

Construction site accident injuries can result in significant damages, including:

  • Medical expenses 
  • Lost wages and future earning potential  
  • Pain and suffering 
  • Disability and impairment 

In cases where construction site injuries lead to fatalities, surviving family members may seek compensation for funeral expenses, loss of companionship, and economic losses.

How an Attorney Can Help

An experienced personal injury attorney can provide invaluable assistance in navigating the legal complexities of construction site injury cases involving hand and power tools. The skilled attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer understand the nuances of New Jersey's construction accident laws and can build a strong case on your behalf by doing the following:

  • Investigation. Attorneys have the resources and expertise to investigate construction site accidents thoroughly, gather evidence, and identify liable parties.
  • Negotiation. Your attorney will negotiate with insurers and opposing parties to secure fair settlements that cover your medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages.
  • Litigation. If a fair settlement cannot be reached, attorneys are prepared to represent your interests in court, fighting for your right to compensation.
  • Peace of mind. Dealing with an injury and legal matters simultaneously can be stressful and overwhelming. Your attorney can handle the legal aspects, allowing you to focus on your recovery.
Timothy F. Schweitzer
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Personal injury lawyer specializing in maritime, construction and railroad injury claims.