Last edited 17 Oct 2016

Construction tools

Very broadly, the term ‘tools’ refers to instruments that are used by hand.

The term ‘equipment’ generally refers to a set of tools used for a single purpose. The term ‘plant’ generally refers to heavy machinery and equipment. At the smaller scale, there may be some overlap between what is considered to be plant, small plant, tools, small tools, light equipment or equipment.

Tools have been integral to the construction of buildings, from the earliest use of timber, bone, antler, stone and so on for cutting, scraping, chopping, hammering and moving, to the development of modern power tools enabling construction activities to be performed more quickly and accurately or with fewer people.

Tools might be:

  • Hand tools, such as; screwdrivers, brushes, trowels, wrenches, knives, crimpers, clamps and so on.
  • Power tools, which may be powered by electricity, compressed air, liquid fuel, hydraulic power, or powder-actuated and might include; mixers, saws, cutters, drills, grinders, guns, breakers and so on.
  • Machine tools, used for shaping materials into components by cutting, boring, grinding and so on.

Tools may by general tools such as shovels and hammers, or specialist tools such electrical tools or measuring devices. Some tools are multi-functional.

Construction tools are generally re-useable, and so as well as being purchased new, they may be purchased second hand or hired. However, the quality of a tool that has already been used may not be clear, and so they should only be obtained from reputable sources, and carefully inspected before use.

It is important that the correct tools are available to carry out the works, otherwise there may be delays, or attempts to carry out the works with an inappropriate tool which can cause damage, improper installation or safety issues. However, there can be a tendency to oversupply tools, or to obtain over-sized tools ‘just in case’ which can lead to similar problems.

It is important that workers are properly trained in the use of tools and that they are supplied with appropriate information for their safe operation along with any necessary personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE should not interfere with the proper use of the tool, for example, safety glasses fogging, or gloves making it difficult to operate controls.

The selection of tools, should consider their:

  • Appropriateness for the job.
  • Quality.
  • Safety.
  • Weight.
  • Comfort of use (such as grip, balance, vibration and so on).
  • Duration of use.
  • Available space for use.
  • Storage.
  • Security.
  • Insurance.
  • Power and fuel requirements.
  • Maintenance and breakdowns.
  • Standards and regulations.
  • Potential to cause nuisance such as noise, dust, vibrations and so on.

A proper inventory of tools should be maintained, including manufacturer details, instructions, parts requirements and so on. Management processes should be put in place for safety, inspection (in particular blades, electrical cords and connections), reporting and record keeping, maintenance (such as lubrication, sharpening and replacement of parts), repairs and cleanliness. Damaged tools should be clearly labelled so that they are not used.

Manufacturer’s instructions should always be followed in the operation of tools and site standards should be applied throughout the supply chain to all contractors, sub-contractors and suppliers.

NB The term ‘tool’ might also be used more generally to refer to anything that assists with a process, such as a piece of software, guidance toolkits, appraisal tools and so on.

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