Product Focus: Safety Tools/Knives

Trends in ... safety tools and knives

Education is key

Does your knowledge of safety knives make the cut? Here, an industry insider shares his thoughts on new technology, how employers can help prevent misuse and what workers must understand.


“The challenge is to produce a knife that cuts material effectively without cutting skin,” said T.J. Scimone, founder and CEO of San Jose, CA-based Slice Inc.

To reach this goal, Scimone notes, safety knife manufacturers have been experimenting with blade materials, design ergonomics and retraction technology. “Zirconium oxide (a hard ceramic) is a promising material that retains its edge longer than steel and therefore doesn’t need to be as sharp,” he said.

In addition, safety knife manufacturers are producing knives with blades that retract automatically when the blade loses contact with the cutting material – even if the worker forgets to release the button, Scimone said.

Keeping workers safe

Workers misuse equipment all the time, according to Scimone, and in some surprising ways. “There are typical misuses like using a utility knife as a screwdriver, and baffling misuses like trying to cut yourself with a safety blade just to see if you can,” he said.

To prevent workers from getting hurt, education is key. “It’s really up to the companies to be clear about the proper use and care of a safety cutter and, in turn, up to safety managers to pass on that information to their staff,” Scimone said.

He also recommends ensuring workers understand what each tool is designed for, how it works and what tasks can be performed with it. “When a tool is used incorrectly, you lose the benefit of its design,” Scimone said. “For example, an ergonomic box cutter only gives ergonomic benefits when it’s used in the right position. Why waste money by using it incorrectly and still getting injured?”

Ultimately, Scimone believes it’s worth the time and money to buy well-designed tools and to learn how to use them correctly.

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

Coming next month:
Protective clothing
Safety signs and labels

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