Toolbox Talk: The Right Tool for the Job (free Download + Tips)

A toolbox talk about using the right equipment seems irrelevant. Isn’t it obvious that you should use a tool that was made for the job at hand? 

Yes, but have you seen someone driving a screw with a knife? Sometimes, a worker may simply be lazy and neglect to use the correct equipment. And, as you know, this could end in a disaster. So, one way to improve workplace safety is to present a toolbox talk about using the right tools for any specific job.

What does “right tool for the job” mean in workplace safety?

The “right tool for the job” rule can refer to any of the following:

  • Using tools for a purpose for which they were never intended
  • Using the right tool, but using it incorrectly
  • Using unsuitable tools, or modifying a tool in your toolbox to try and mimic the performance of the correct item

OSHA’s Basic Safety Rules

And, speaking of this, we can’t go without mentioning OSHA’s five basic safety rules that employees should know about. Here are all five rules that’ll help to keep everyone working with hand tools and power tools safe:

  • Keep all tools in good condition with regular maintenance.
  • Use the right tool for the job.
  • Examine each tool for damage before use and do not use damaged tools.
  • Operate tools according to the manufacturers’ instructions.
  • Provide and use properly the right personal protective equipment (PPE).

Another important aspect regarding tools is that your employees should know how to best carry their tools between tasks. 

You need to train them to use a tool belt or other safety item that is the right tool, for carrying other tools.

Why Is it Important to Use the Right Tools for the Right Job?

To keep everyone safe. Equipment that’s designed for a specific job should only be used for that job. If a worker uses a tool that’s not designed for that job, it creates a safety risk on site. 

For example…When dealing with electrical components, using uninsulated steel tools could lead to electric shock or even electrocution. Electrical safety is always important when working with hand tools.
A less clear example is a tool with a cracked or splintered wooden handle. The worker using this tool could be injured. 

Choosing the right tool also means it needs to be inspected to ensure that it isn’t defective. A defective or broken tool is no longer the right tool for the job.

Not only will training your staff to use the right tools keep them safe, but it also helps you to avoid OSHA violations. OSHA holds the employer responsible for providing the right tools for the job. OSHA General Industry Standard 1910.242(a) states:

“Each employer shall be responsible for the safe condition of tools and equipment used by employees, including tools and equipment which may be furnished by employees.” 

In addition, OSHA’s Hand and Power Tools informational book states: 

“Employees should be trained in the proper use and handling of tools and equipment.”

The training should also include wearing protective clothing and PPE (personal protective equipment) when using tools. PPE includes safety glasses, safety goggles, and gloves. Remember to make workers aware of choosing the right equipment and PPE to work in different environments. For example, when you are up on a ladder or on scaffolding you’ll need fall protection, such as a hoist or harnesses. In this scenario, using the right tool for the job is also about using the right type of ladder and fall protection equipment.

Toolbox Talk: Right Tool for the Job

We hope this toolbox talk will help you to create a safety talk that gets the message about the right tools across.


The Risks of Manual Handling of Hand Tools

There are a host of risks from manual handling of hand tools and all of these could be great daily toolbox talk topics on their own: 

  • Sharp tools and equipment that are used for cutting can cause cuts. These may range from minor cuts and punctures to serious cuts that will send the worker to the hospital. 
  • A loose or cracked wooden handle can fly off when used and cause an injury.
  • If you use a screwdriver as a chisel, the tip can fly off and cause eye injuries and abrasions to nearby workers.
  • Steel hand tools may cause sparks that can ignite flammable substances. 
  • When the jaws of a wrench are sprung to a certain point, it can cause slippage during use. 
  • An impact tool with a mushroomed head could shatter, sending dangerous debris and particles around the workstation. 
  • Vibration from hand tools can obstruct blood circulation and cause numbness in the hands and arms.

How to Clean and Maintain Tools

One major method to ensure that you’re using the right equipment is to store tools properly and to keep them clean. 

Inspect your equipment every time you use it. This will help you to keep track of potential issues and defects which, in turn, will ensure that the tools are always in working order and won’t cause danger to workers. 

Here are some things to look out for. 

What to Look Out For
All tools
Look for paint anywhere on the tool. Paint could easily hide a defect that will make the equipment faulty and could lead to an incident. Always remove paint from tools to inspect it.
If there are metal parts, make sure there is no rust or corrosion. 
Also, check for modifications and quick fixes. Anything that looks like it has been added or isn’t manufacturer-approved should be removed. 
Cutting Tools
Saws, scissors, knives, and other cutting tools should be sharp. Using a dull blade can cause an accident or severe injuries. 
If there is any slippage with wrenches, discard the tool. You should have the right sizes, and always use the right-sized wrenches for the job. Don’t try to modify one to reach further than it should. 
The blade should be at the correct angle. Don’t use a chisel with a mushroomed head. 
Check that the head is firmly attached to the handle. Ensure that the handle is in good condition, without cracks or splits. 
Make sure it has the correct handle and is not used as a lever.
Ensure the handle is in good condition. Check the shaft to ensure that the tip wasn’t used as a chisel or that the end was hammered. 
Power tools
Inspect the electrical cord for fraying or exposed wires. Make sure electric prongs are straight and not loose. All moving parts should be lubricated. 

Keep tools in a dedicated place in the work area and ensure that only trained personnel has access to it. On site, observers should be at a safe distance from the person or people using hand tools.

Use the following methods to keep power tools and hand tools clean:

  • Wipe power tools of grime and dust every time you use them. Use a rag for this task to ensure they’re in tidy condition. You can deep clean on occasion with a damp cloth to make sure the moving parts are dirt-free. 
  • Wipe hand tools with a rag after use and before storing. Check any joints for a build-up of dust and dirt. 

Tips for Avoiding Accidents or Injuries

Using the wrong tools can result in multiple potential injuries. A worker can pull a muscle, get bruised, or suffer long-term effects such as carpal tunnel syndrome and amputations.

Here are some tips for avoiding accidents or injuries when using the equipment. The general points include: 

  • Make sure you are using the correct tool for the job you’re doing. 
  • Ensure the tool is well maintained and inspected before use. 
  • Send any tools that are in disrepair to be fixed or dispose of it. 
  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions and use only approved accessories. 
  • Keep cutting tools sharp and covered when not in use. 

However, incidents will happen at some point. What matters is that you collect and analyze incident reports to prevent the same thing from happening again.


What is a mushroomed tool? 

Mushrooming happens when a tool such as a cold chisel that you hit with an impact tool starts to feature a deformed head. This deformed head expands over the chisel sides as a result of repeated blows. Metal bits can splinter and fly off on contact and cause eye injuries, cuts in a worker’s skin or even loss of eyesight. You should file mushroom heads down as soon as they appear.

What are the common faults of hand tools? 

Using screwdrivers as chisels. Extending wrenches with pipes rather than using the correct sized tool. Blunt or dull blades on hand tools. Creating sparks near flammable liquids and chemicals. Instead of a wrench, using pliers. Unfortunately, these are all common faults that are made daily. 


Prevention is the best protection. There are so many potential issues with using the wrong tool for the job. But you can prevent it by encouraging the proper use of all equipment. We’ve provided an example for you to use with our downloadable toolbox talk above. 

Make sure you use this with your employees to hammer home the message about tool safety for all tools. And always remember that improving safety culture in the workplace is the best way to prevent accidents and create a better work environment. Especially when paired with a safety incentive program.

References and Further Reading