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 shrinkwrapped packaging materials and put them in the storage areas. My trainer showed me all the ins and outs of the job. He watched me carefully to make sure I was following 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 shrinkwrap and unload the boxes. The knife 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 I ended up with a nasty cut on my other hand.

Utility Knives

Anyone who works with hand tools will probably tell you that the utility knife is to be treated with respect. It's a simple and familiar tool, but if you get too comfortable with it, it can cause some nasty injuries. Even though it's often used for cutting cardboard, packing tape, or thin plastic, they're sharp enough to give you some serious cuts or puncture wounds.

It's even 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. Now, there are models where the blade can be retracted or folded into its casing.

Utility knives are common in many different industries and used in various activities. Construction workers, warehouse workers, and even butchers, chefs, and crafters will often keep one handy.

They're also a familiar sight in garages and toolboxes. Those with a bit of a DIY attitude can find many uses for it when they're fixing or improving things around the home.

They are small but mighty. Be sure to follow the proper safety measures when using and storing them.

Common Causes of Utility Knife Injuries

  1. Novice users tend to draw the knife toward the body instead of directing it away from the body, increasing the likelihood of injury
  2. The blade is not replaced when it has become dull. More pressure is needed when using a dull blade, which increases the risk for injury (the added pressure might, for example, cause the knife to slip)
  3. Not using the right tool for the job. The blade on a retractable utility knife can be somewhat flimsy, and it is only a few inches long. Using it to cut more than it can handle is a recipe for trouble
  4. Storing the knife with the blade extended or without a proper casing. Anyone not seeing the knife or reaching for it assuming the blade is safely housed within the chamber can 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 (learn about Trends and Technologies in Making Cut Protective Gloves Truly Comfortable)
  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 accidents with a utility knife is important to using and handling it properly.

  • Use the right blades required for the knife. Not only so they will fit and work properly, but also so they 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 facing them
  • 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 make 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.