"I had just started my first day at a new job in the warehouse of a packaging company. My job was to move skids of shrink wrapped packaging materials and put them in the storage areas. My trainer showed me all the ins and outs of what the job entailed. He watched me carefully to make sure I was utilizing all of the safety precautions for moving the loads. Once I handled this part of my task successfully he handed me a utility knife and said go to it. It was time to cut all of the shrink wrap and unload the boxes. This was my first time at this type of work as my previous work experience was only in an office setting. The knife in my hand looked like a simple tool so I quickly went about my job. Too quick in fact, because I didn’t realize just how sharp that utility knife was and ended up giving myself a nasty cut to my other hand. The rest of the day was spent in the emergency room instead of on the job. It might have helped if my trainer had given me some safety pointers on the proper use of the utility knife instead of assuming that I was familiar with this hand held tool." - Lisa (Age 27) Warehouse employee

Anyone who works with hand tools will surely tell you that the utility knife is to be treated with respect. It is a small simple tool, but has the ability to create some extremely nasty injuries. They can be cuts or puncture wounds of a serious nature. It has been said that almost 40% of the injuries created from manual workshop tools comes from these types of retractable blade knives.

Quick Tips

Originally, utility knives were only available in fixed blade models, but now models where the blade can be retracted and/or the blade can be folded into its casing are available. Utility knives are used in many different types of industries and various activities. They are used in the construction industry, by chefs, in many other types of work places, and are often a home tool that is found in the do-it-yourself tool box. They are small, but mighty, and deserve respect by putting in place the proper safety measures when using and storing them.

Common Causes of Utility Knife Injuries

  1. For the novice user, the tendency is to draw the knife towards the body instead of directing it away from the body
  2. The blade is not replaced when it has become dull. This means more pressure is needed when using the dull bladed knife, which increases the risk for injury. For example, if the knife slips due to the added pressure required to cut
  3. Not using the proper tool for the job at hand. Using the utility knife for cutting more than it can handle is a recipe for a potential disaster
  4. Storing the knife with the blade extended, or not in a proper casing. Anyone not seeing the knife can easily be cut
  5. The utility knife is a tool, and when using any tool of this nature there is a need to wear the proper protective clothing and equipment
  6. Not checking the knife before using it. The blade could be loose and bounce out of the knife as soon as pressure is applied to it, causing a nasty injury

Utility Knife Accident Prevention

Knowing how to prevent a possible accident with a utility knife ensures that it is being used and handled properly.

  • Use the right blades required for the knife. Not only so they will fit and work properly, but will retract the way they are supposed to, which is a built in safety feature
  • Use the right utility knife for the job at hand
  • Wear safety glasses and the properly rated level 3 sleeved gloves
  • When you have to hand the knife to another person do so with the handle to them first
  • Keep up to date with the latest utility knives on the market. They are comprised of better technology, and have greater safety features built into them
  • Whenever possible use an alternative blade that may be safer. For example, rounded blades, or those with a knife shield surface. However, the cutting job will dictate which type of blade is best used
  • Fully inspect the knife prior to use to be sure the blades are locked in properly
  • Position yourself for the job so you can make the cut in a safe manner. Be sure you are able to keep your hands back from the cutting area
  • Don’t apply excessive pressure to the blade at any time
  • Even though changing the blade seems like a simple task, read the instructions that came with the knife to be sure you aren’t missing anything important
  • Restrict use of the knife for what it is to be used for. It is not meant for prying

Making sure that you are using the right type of utility knife for the task is going to help keep you safe. Remember, that storing the knife properly is part of the safety needs for these hand held tools. Be sure to dispose of dull or broken blades in a puncture-resistant container.