Safety alert issued following puncture injury from hardened steel hammer

WorkSafe Victoria recently issued a safety alert about the risks of using hardened steel tools on hardened steel following an incident in which a worker was injured when a hardened steel hammer shattered.

The employee was working as an underground drill operator and was trying to separate jammed drill consumables by striking the shank.

He was hurt when the hammer shattered on impact, and steel fragments hit one of the employee’s legs, penetrating 4cm. He required surgery to remove the fragments.

The alert said using hardened steel tools on hardened steel can cause the steel to shatter or splinter. Steel fragments can fly off at high speed and cause injuries or death, and anybody in the vicinity of the flying steel is at risk.

The alert recommended a number of ways to eliminate or reduce risks:

  • Ensure hazards related to hardened steel tools have been identified and their risks assessed.
  • Where possible, do not use hardened steel tools to loosen steel parts. Use other methods for tasks that require striking or other impact to loosen parts.
  • It may be necessary to use tools such as hammers to hit hardened steel. In such cases, ensure the striking tool is a softer material, for example, a mild steel or copper hammer.
  • Have regular inspections of steel tools and implements. Look for signs of damage or excessive wear. Replace damaged or worn equipment.
  • Ensure employees wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Appropriate PPE includes, for example, eye protection, gloves and long-sleeved clothing.
  • Employers must provide employees with the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision they need to work safely. This includes when working with plant such as hardened steel hammers.
  • Consult with employees and independent contractors. Employers must consult with employees and independent contractors about things that affect or are likely to affect the employees. They must also consult with any health and safety representatives, and this includes when identifying, assessing, and controlling risks.