Sometimes Safety Is As Simple as Looking Through a Toolbox

Next time your crew has a bit of down time, consider having them clean out their toolboxes. If your people use company tools instead of bringing their own, have them clean out the gangbox or the tool crib. Tell your people to inspect tools as they clean and organize.

  • Check metal mallets and chisels for mushroomed heads that need to be dressed.
  • Clean and sharpen utility knives and other sharps. Keep sheathes or caps on knives and chisels so you don’t get a nasty surprise when you reach for one.
  • Make sure that files are kept in a separate part of the toolbox, so they don’t dull the sharps.
  • Check the toolbox itself. Maybe it’s your dad’s old box and you use it because it has sentimental value. But after 40 years of use, the hinges or the clasp might need replacing. Plastic boxes are tough in the short term, but hard to repair when they break—which they will.
  • Look for cracks and breaks in the hand grips of pliers, snips, and cutters. Keep some electrical tape in the box to help with minor repairs.
  • Check screwdrivers for cracked handles and loose shafts.
  • Check the heads on hammers.
  • Look for expired protein bars and old packages of gum. Throw those away.

Let’s say one of your people is looking for a chisel. He’s busy and in a hurry. If the first chisel he finds has a badly mushroomed head, he might leave it in the toolbox and get one that’s in better shape. But because he’s in a hurry, he almost definitely won’t stop to dress the head. That chisel will just lie around until it’s the best of the bad choices, and then it will get used—and someone might get hurt. Downtime is your opportunity to improve safety.

Toolbox maintenance is another form of good housekeeping. When every tool has a place and every tool is in its place, your people are more likely to have the right tool, in the right condition, when they need it.