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Screwdrivers: An easy how-to guide on how to use a Screwdriver safely.

  • 2019-08-24

handheld screwdriver

While writing a separate post, I realized that some folks out there don’t know how to use a screwdriver safely, and let me tell you, people, there is no easier way on this earth to cause yourself an injury than when using a screwdriver all wrong!

Just take a look at the working end of a hand screwdriver it either looks like a blunt chisel or a dull icepick, and you can see why an innocent afternoon repairing your home can have you heading to the ER, blood seeping from an accidental stab wound.

But first things first before we can talk about screwdriver safety we must talk about how tto use a screwdriver correctly.

How to use a screwdriver properly

  1. Select the correct size and shaped screwdriver tip to match the screw the screw
  2. Make sure the screwdriver shaft is “In line” with the screw
  3. Keeping the Shaft in line with the screw, apply force to the screw with the screwdriver.
  4. At the same time rotate the screwdriver clockwise to screw in and anti-clockwise to screw out.

Now that you know how a screwdriver should be used we can explore how to use one safely.

How to use a screwdriver safely

  1. Always have access to first aid.
  2. Use the screwdriver as a screwdriver. It’s not a chisel, a lever or a punch.
  3. Always hold a manual screwdriver with both hands when working with it.
  4. Match the correct screwdriver to the screwhead.
  5. Never use screwdrivers with damaged tips.
  6. Always make sure the screwdriver is in line with the screw.
  7. NEVER use a powered screwdriver when working on or near electrics.
  8. Never use a screwdriver in a way where the point is aimed toward you.
  9. Never hold the workpiece in one hand when using a screwdriver in the other.
  10. If possible make a pilot hole to allow the screw to enter easier.
  11. Never carry a screwdriver in your pocket.
  12. Keep screwdrivers away from young kids.

The U.S. national safety council statistics for 2017 show that there were 138,854 hospital admissions across the US for home-related hand tool injuries and 113774 admissions for power tool injuries.

You can bet that a sizeable chunk of those hand tool injuries was screwdriver related.

Let me explain how not to become a statistic in this year’s injury tally.

Most screwdriver related injuries happen when a screwdriver slips and the user accidentally stabs themselves. By following these simple rules, you can make sure you ain’t the one dripping blood all over the place.

Make sure you have access to first aid

First and foremost before using any tool you need to have access to a basic first aid kit and know where to find it. I don’t know how many times I have torn my home apart looking for the first aid box.

It’s also advisable that you know how to use what’s in your first aid box. Getting yourself some basic first aid skills could save your life or more importantly the life of someone in your family.

These days, in my hand tool box, I always keep a small sealed box stuffed with sticking plasters and a couple of sterile dressings.

Only use your screwdriver as a screwdriver!

You have no idea how many people I have seen over the years using a handheld screwdriver in a way it’s not designed to be used.

If you need to use a chisel, a pry bar, a nail bar, a punch or some other tool, but instead use a screwdriver you will at some point injure yourself.  

Go to your hand tool box and fetch the right tool for the job. A few seconds going to your hand tool box is more efficient than taking the risk and spending hours sat in ER.

Use both hands

It may seem like an obvious thing to do, but most folks don’t use both hands.

They grab their trusty Phillips screwdriver amble up to some innocent screw and using one hand pop the driver head in the slot put a chunk of pressure on and twist, just like the last zillion screws they pulled out.

Only this time Mr. Screw doesn’t want to play, and the driver slips off the screwhead, causing pain, blood loss and spontaneous outbursts the kids shouldn’t hear.

Match the correct Screwdriver to the right head

Nothing will cause you to hurt yourself quicker than using the wrong screwdriver for the wrong screw!

Screwheads have a bunch of different sizes and shapes which is explained in more detail in the above video.

If your screwdriver doesn’t snugly fit the slot the chances of you slipping and reaching for the first aid kit are increased.

Never use a damaged screwdriver

Once again this is similar to the advice on using the right driver for the right screw. If the tip of your screwdriver is all gnarled up, you ain’t getting that snug fit in the screwhead, and pain city is not far away.

“Check your tip to prevent tool slip !”

It’s not just the tip you need to check, also check the handle, any cut or chip out of a screwdriver handle can cause blisters in the palm of your hand.

While not generally thought of as life-threatening injuries blisters are annoying, painful things. Blisters in your palm can create a specific problem in that if they burst some nasty infections can get in the wound as you work.

If any screwdriver has damage of any kind, throw it straight in the trash.

Always make sure the screwdriver is in line with the screw

As described in the above video It is essential that when using a screwdriver, the shaft of the screwdriver is precisely in line with the screw.

Not only does it give you more chance of getting the screw out without damaging the screw head or the screwdriver, but it also brings with it less chance of the screwdriver slipping out of the screw head.

NEVER use a powered screwdriver near electrical components

Cordless or impact screwdrivers may not seem overly dangerous near electrics. They have plastic bodies; they must be insulated! Right !.

Wrong! The molded bodies may offer some protection, but the driver head will be metal, it fits into a metal chuck attached to an electric motor which is then connected to a battery.  

It is generally not thought to be a great idea passing 110v through a 12 or 18v battery while it’s nestled snugly in your hand.

Electricity has a real nasty habit of keeping going till it finds earth. So after the battery explodes those 110 volts are going to pass straight through your body.

At best you get one helluva fright, you may get off with a nasty burn, but that bright blue flash may be the last thing you see!

Only ever use a properly insulated handheld screwdriver near electrics.

Only use a handheld screwdriver with the tip facing away from you

Lots of people have been injured pulling knives and chisels toward them.

A screwdriver is no different to a knife or chisel if a screwdriver slips and the point aimed at your body it’s a good bet you will injure yourself.

Never hold the workpiece in one hand while using a screwdriver in the other hand

I have seen this happen and it was not a pretty thing to see.

My friend John was screwing a handle onto a small tool box he was making out of hardwood. He had five out of the six screws done and was driving the last one home.

John was holding the box in his left hand, screwdriver in his right. The screw suddenly stopped cutting into the wood,

John adds more pressure to the screw, and the darn screwdriver slipped. The point of the screwdriver scraped across the wood and went straight through the palm of his left hand and out the back.

John is a carpenter and should know better, but he let complacency creep in, and it cost him a few months income and a great deal of pain.

I don’t think I need to say anymore!

Drill a pilot hole for the screw if you can

Apart from John not holding the box in his hand as he screwed he could have stopped the screw catchingas it did.

All he had to do was drill a small pilot hole into the box first. If he had done this one simple thing, it would have meant he would have had to use less pressure on the screw to drive it home.

Even if the driver had slipped he would have more than likely only had a slight graze or bruise on his hand.

Never carry a screwdriver in your pocket

You would never carry an unsheathed knife or a small ice pick in your pocket, and the reason for not doing this seems obvious. You would more than likely stab yourself when you sit down.

So why does everyone think a screwdriver is any safer when it’s carried in your pocket.

I will admit I have done it in the past and I have been lucky not to draw blood, but I have popped a few holes in my jeans.

Tool Belts and hand tool boxes are where screwdrivers should live, not in your pocket!

Don’t mix young kids with screwdrivers

I feel like I am stating the obvious here, but remember those statistics at the top of this page.

When you break them down, hand tools were responsible for 2369 hospital admission for kids under 5 and another 5998 kids aged between 5 and 14.

I will spell that out again. In 2017 almost 8,400 American kids were admitted to hospital with hand tool-related injuries!

Tools are not toys, but kids don’t know that! Keep the two well apart.

In addition to using a screwdriver safely, you may want to take a look at this general safety advice video from The Animation House. If for no other reason than being mildly amused at the creepy voiceover.

Q: What is an electricians screwdriver

A: Also know and an electrical safety screwdriver it is a fully insulated specialist screwdriver, and only the drive tip is left visible.  It will have been tested to withstand a minimum of 1000v

Q: What are the parts of a screwdriver called ?

A: A screwdriver has four named parts. 1-The handle. 2-The shank. 3-The blade.  4 -The tip.

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