People everywhere, in every environment, use knives. They use them to open packages, cut cartons, cut string or strapping material, cut the tape down the center of a box, open bags or tear away shrink wrap.

If you take a close look at workers’ hands, you will notice scars and bandaged thumbs. You will hopefully be spared the sight of far worse and more gruesome injuries such as the cuts, lacerations and puncture wounds that are rampant in retail and industrial work settings.

Safety: a sound investment
Overlooking the type of carton cutters employees use can have a dramatic effect on an organization’s final profit performance. Many times the dangers of inappropriate cutting tools are overlooked because it is easy to take for granted the necessary functions of opening merchandise, parts and ingredients. However, employee cuts and damaged items cost companies millions of dollars each year.

Preventing or reducing occupational injuries and workers’ compensation claims should be a priority for all organizations. The risk for accidents and hand lacerations can be greatly reduced by introducing safety cutters accompanied by education in their proper use.

Investing in safety cutters lets employees know their company is serious about safety policies and programs (ROI is $3 to $1) and is a great platform on which to build a safety culture. Effective training and better tools will cut down on injuries, translating into tremendous cost savings and improved productivity and efficiency. When management makes this commitment, safety practices become more important to employees.

Tools and training
The most common cause of accidents related to box cutters takes place when an employee uses a standard knife and is distracted or slips, cutting his/her forearm or thigh with an exposed blade. To avoid this type of accident, remember to always:
  • Approach work in a balanced body position.
  • Turn the item five degrees to the left so you are cutting away from the body.
  • Look directly at the cut line — never look away or become distracted by talking with someone.
  • Place your other hand on the opposite side of the case away from the cutting line.
There are many different types of knives with a variety of features, but one thing is certain — with a safety cutter, the types of accidents and resulting injuries are greatly reduced. Safety cutters have a variety of features, so the right tool should be carefully chosen to suit the material you are cutting.

A safety cutter with a permanent safety guard will protect an employee from injury because, in the boxopening position, the blade is not exposed. The guard acts as a guide to properly position the cutter, protecting the user from injury and also protecting the carton contents from damage.

Many safety knives today feature a spring-back mechanism that allows the blade to instantly retract when the knife loses contact with the cutting surface. This feature dramatically reduces the risk of puncture wounds.

Other features include in-handle blade storage, ergonomically designed handles and blunt-tipped blades. Many manufacturers supply right-handed, lefthanded or ambidextrous models.

While there is no question as to the benefits of using safety knives in the workplace, the biggest obstacle may be getting workers to use them. Workers’ resistance to change is an obstacle that employers must overcome. Mandating the use of a safety cutter makes sense in terms of safety, utility, and cost effectiveness.

But mandating the use of safety cutters will be ineffective without the necessary training and education. Most manufacturers provide excellent instruction sheets and posters, as well as video training materials. Incorporate these materials into your training program to ensure workers understand the value of a comprehensive safety cutter program.