Safety knives are a necessary tool in almost any industrial workplace. Much has been said about the do’s and don’ts of using safety knives, yet some topics are taken for granted that are essential to understanding what “safety knife” really means.

No such thing— First, there is no such thing as a totally safe knife. No cutting tool is 100-percent safe. A safety knife is still a knife. The safety feature has yet to be designed that can replace the sense of responsibility that must accompany the use of any cutting tool. This is especially true if a knife’s safety features give the end-user a false sense of security.

Beyond the blade— Beefing up safety in a knife means looking beyond the blade. When talking about knives, the blade is a favorite topic. Because lacerations are visible, blades and lacerations get the most attention. Indeed, it is during blade changes where most cuts occur, so if blade changes are made easy through effective knife design you can avoid many cuts.

Sharper is better— Blade quality also is of major importance. A better blade typically results in longer blade life, meaning less time lost to blade changes and fewer injuries.

You might think a sharper blade is more dangerous, but a dull blade actually is a catalyst for cuts. As workers push, pull and use unnatural movements or extreme force to work the dull blade, they are at a greater risk of slipping and potentially damaging themselves and the product they are handling.

The right job— As well as sharp, a blade should be suited for the material you are cutting. Many jobs require the use of a blade, but if all you are doing is tearing open tape, a much safer option is a tape splitter without a blade.

Ergonomically friendly— Ergonomics also plays a key role in knife safety, and it goes beyond the use of nice grips. More relevant are the answers to the following questions:

  • Does the cutting tool foster a natural movement, i.e. one that does not create stress and, over time, a repetitive motion injury?
  • Will the cutting tool be an extension of your hand and forearm, something that works with you and optimizes your movements?

For example, knives that operate with thumb sliders to engage a blade require an unnatural forward-and-backward thumb movement repeatedly to engage the blade. A more ergonomic design engages the blade by clenching the palm while holding the knife, thus spreading the exerted force across the hand.

Performance, too— Finally, built-in safety features should not come with performance tradeoffs, which can result in less efficient or unnecessary movements. If employees are trying to circumvent the safety features of their cutting tools or resisting using them, you may need to ask: Is performance adversely impacted by the safety features?

Safety should not have to come at a price, that price being convenience, form and function. Smartly designed safety knives do not compromise performance, but rather, they enhance it, creating a natural fit between safety and function.

Ergonomics, efficiency and safety should go hand-in-hand. Quality materials and design can translate into no compromise when selecting your safety knives.