HVAC safety topics need to include “cutting tool sourcing” and “safe cutting tools and techniques”. Cutters are common among HVAC tools and equipment. By their very nature, these tools are dangerous: lacerations are one of the most common workplace injuries, and they’re among the most common injuries keeping workers away from work.
On a positive note, these injuries are almost entirely preventable, if adequate HVAC safety training is provided to workers. Before training, however, comes tool sourcing: What cutting tools do you need? Do your workers have the safest options available?
Cutting Tools for HVAC Workers
Any HVAC tools kit must contain a traditional utility knife and a long-blade knife. Like the name implies, utility knives are strong, general-purpose tools able to cut a wide variety of materials.
A long-bladed knife is necessary for cutting thick, softer materials. In the HVAC world, that includes foam and fiberglass insulation, which is why this type of cutter is sometimes called an insulation knife.
Source the Safest HVAC Cutting Tools
When you’re looking for the safest cutters, consider these questions:
- Is the blade safe?
- Is the tool ergonomic?
- Can the tool work for left-handed and right-handed workers?
- Is it easy to grip the tool securely?
- Does the handle have safety features?
To find the safest cutting tools, you should be able to answer yes to all of these questions. Spoiler alert: Slice® tools are the only ones that cover all these bases.
The Slice line of tools includes several models of utility knives and long-blade knives, which we call industrial knives. HVAC workers and foremen particularly like our industrial knives—which feature a 3-inch blade—because they’re safer and because they cut materials smoothly and easily; they’re a more efficient tool for the job. In addition, our blades last substantially longer than traditional metal blades: Slice blades last up to 11 times longer than their metal counterparts. Blade longevity is especially important when dealing with abrasive materials like fiberglass insulation. Such materials are notorious for how quickly they dull metal blades. This is not the case with Slice blades.
Watch our 10559 Manual Industrial Knife cut through fiberglass insulation in one easy pass:
Slice Safety Blades
Slice is the only cutting tool manufacturer to make a truly safer blade. All Slice blades are made with 100 percent zirconium oxide and are created through a proprietary grinding process. Slice’s patent-pending design makes our blades finger-friendly®: you can safely touch the blade.
Slice Handle Safety Features
A common way to make HVAC tools needed for cutting safer is to modify the blade retraction. While using retraction is common, it’s incomplete unless you’ve paired retraction with a safer blade edge. Slice uses retraction in conjunction with safety blades for a complete safety solution.
For our industrial knives, utility knives, and metal-handle utility knives, Slice offers two blade retraction options: manual and auto-retractable.
For either option, the user engages a slider to expose the blade. With the manual tools, the blade locks into place in one of multiple cutting positions. The user re-engages the slider to retract the blade back into the handle. For the auto-retractable tools, the user keeps the slider engaged to keep the blade exposed. As soon as the slider is released, the blade automatically recedes into the handle.
In our 10558, the Smart-Retracting Utility Knife, we offer a third option. As in automatic retraction, the user engages the slider to expose the blade. But in order for the blade to stay exposed, it must sense cutting pressure from the material. That is, if there’s suddenly no pressure against the blade, it will retract, even if the slider is still engaged. This prevents accidents if the knife slips in the middle of a cut.
The retraction option you choose depends on preference and the required level of safety.
Ergonomic, Ambidextrous, and Easy to Grip
Ergonomics, when applied to hand tools, is concerned with designing tools so that they’re comfortable to hold and use. That is, ergonomic design ensures that the tool allows a natural grip and natural movement. All Slice tool design considers ergonomics. Ergonomic tools are easier to use and help reduce repetitive stress injuries, which are too common in the workplace.
Whether you’re a leftie or rightie, Slice tools are designed to be compatible with whichever hand you prefer. Some tools require no adjustment to switch between left- and right-handed use. Other tools simply require that you flip the blade around. For our utility knives and industrial knives, blade removal and replacement is tool free.
Slice tool handle surfaces provide a secure grip to reduce the chance of slipping.
HVAC Safety Tips for Cutting
Even with the safest tools in hand, it’s important to include cutting protocols in your HVAC safety meeting topics. Workers always benefit from reminders about how to stay safe. A few keys points to hit on are:
- Always wear appropriate gloves and eye protection
- Make sure your cutting area is clear of clutter
- Check that your tools are in good working order
- Always cut away from the body
- Stay alert and aware of your surroundings and potential hazards
To keep your safety messaging engaging, switch up your delivery methods. Provide hands-on demos, create role-play situations, and show HVAC safety videos. Slice offers information about the why and how of a Hand Safety Toolbox Talk, including a free PDF that you can use as a handout. Keep your HVAC safety messaging fresh to keep your workers safe.