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K-State Today

September 12, 2011

Box cutter safety

By Lisa Linck

It’s hard to believe that something so small as a box cutter can cause serious – even permanent – damage. Here’s how to prevent it from happening to you. There’s a very good chance that, wherever you are, there’s a box cutter of some sort nearby.

Because box cutters are so common and easy to use, some people make the mistake of thinking that they’re childproof – safe for everybody to use. This can be true provided that the person doing the cutting is competent, safe and aware of what’s going on around him or her.

To use knives and box cutters safely point the blade away from yourself when cutting. Make sure no body parts are in the cutting path. Be sure that other people in the area are at a safe distance before you cut into the shrink wrap, tape, carton, etc.

Take your time. Hacking your way through half an inch of collective shrink wrap is much more dangerous than going easy on it and cutting through the material a couple of layers at a time. When you’re not using the knife or box cutter, make sure the blade is safely stored away. Knives fold so that the blade is stored inside the handle, or they are put into protective sheaths. Many box cutters are retractable so that the blade is not a danger to people who aren’t aware of its presence.

Think about it: When you put down your knife or cutter on a cluttered table, it’s entirely possible that a co-worker will put his or her hand down on top of it. If you’ve taken care to close it or retract the blade, your buddies will be able to continue helping you do your jobs, versus making a quick trip to the emergency room for stitches.

Blades are best when they’re sharp. Because sharp blades are much easier to operate (i.e. you don’t have to go into hacking-and-slashing motions to cut one strand of rope), they’re safer to use. This is because you won’t become frustrated with the dull tool, and because you’ll be able to get the job done faster without compromising safety.

Don’t use tools with rusted blades. Even if you’ve had all your shots (including tetanus), you should still be careful of rust. It increases the chance of cuts and nicks becoming infected and dulls the tool. It’s more likely to break, sending steel shrapnel everywhere.

First aid (in case something happens despite your precautions):

  • Stop the bleeding. Compress clean towels or bandages atop the wound until the blood stops flowing. If the blood soaks through the first bandage, put another on top of it; only medical professionals should remove the bandage.
  • Call your supervisor. He or she needs to know what’s going on so that they can contact the emergency room and other proper authorities. This is especially important for the injury to be covered by worker’s compensation.
  • If the wound is severe (deep, long or doesn’t stop bleeding), go to the emergency room for treatment.
  • Don’t forget to submit an accident/injury form, PER-17.