What Happens After You Tag Something “Do Not Use”?

You’re a supervisor. You’ve trained your crew to inspect tools and equipment before they use them. And they do. So, every once in a while, someone brings you a damaged or broken tool. You can tag it, DO NOT USE, but the tag itself doesn’t solve the safety issues that broken tools and equipment can present.

Let’s say a worker brings you a ladder with a broken rung. Which of the following is the BEST plan?

  1. Write DO NOT USE on the side rail with a permanent marker.
  2. Take the broken ladder into the trailer and stash it behind your desk.
  3. Disable the ladder by removing the other rungs and put it in the scrap-metal dumpster.
  4. Repurpose it as a barrier, to keep workers away from a scaffold.

If you want to make sure that no one will use the broken ladder and get injured, then your best bet out of those choices is #3. Disable the ladder completely and put the remains in the scrap-metal dumpster.

Your immediate goal is to make it clear to those who may not know, that the damaged tool is unsafe and off limits. A tag that says DO NOT USE has to be clear and readable from any angle. It should be difficult to remove. It should be readable by all of the people on the jobsite, no matter what language they speak. When you talk with your crew about tagging unsafe equipment, take the time to find out how to say and write “DO NOT USE” in their language, whether it’s English, Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Polish, or something else.

Your ultimate goal is to keep your people safe by either discarding the tool into the proper waste stream, or having it repaired by a qualified repair person. Until it is off your jobsite, make certain that it is clearly identified as out of service and that it is not used! Your safety plan for handling broken and damaged tools might include a list of electronics recycling facilities, a contact person for a community tool bank that accepts and refurbishes broken tools, or a scrap-metal collector.