Unlike jackhammers and chainsaws, rebar cutters are one of those lesser known construction equipment that haven’t quite captured the public imagination. Nonetheless, rebar cutters are a construction mainstay, and are virtually required when constructing high-rise structures which rely on tons and tons of rebar to keep it standing. Rebar, also known as reinforcing steel bar, are delivered in uniform lengths. It is up to the people at the worksite to customise the rebar to spec to fit the building’s requirements.
Construction sites rely on specialised tools such as rebar cutters to do the grunt work for them. Reinforcing steel bars are valued for their incredible strength and exceptional flexibility, and when partnered with concrete, allow architects and engineers to design and build gargantuan structures of towering heights. This would not be possible without the support afforded by rebar. These qualities also make rebar difficult to tailor using regular tools and machinery. For that, they have to use a rebar cutter.
Rebar cutters are categorised into two groups: manual and electric. Manual rebar cutters can be either stationary or handheld. They rely on the manual strength and manipulation of the user to cut rebar to size. Electric rebar cutters, on the other hand, use electricity to generate the force needed to pierce through the rebar structure. They can be either corded or battery-powered.
Regardless of type, rebar cutter users must possess the technical know-how to ensure proper and safe operation. Rebar cutters can be dangerous, and the cut rebar pieces pose a danger to the user and to nearby people as well. Whether you’re a construction novice or an experienced builder, it is important that you equip yourself with the knowledge to reduce the chances of an accident from happening. Here are some tips so you can safely operate a rebar cutter while at the site.
1 – Read the manual
Rebar cutters are expensive and powerful machines that require technical expertise to ensure safe operation. All rebar cutter users must read the operator’s manual prior to use. The manual contains everything one needs to know about the machine: technical specs, operational limitations, safety precautions, among others. Always heed the safety warnings and labels.
Each user must internalise the proper operation of the machine, and understand its inner workings and method of operation. I also advise first time users undergo training from an experienced rebar cutter operator.
2 – Inspect the machine
Always conduct a thorough inspection of the rebar cutter before using it or assigning it to someone else. Check if the rebar cutter is in good operation: there must be no visible signs of damage, no fraying in the cords, and no obstructions. See if the switch is easily pressed and released. Do not use the machine if it fails to meet any of the criteria above.
3 – Wear personal safety gear
It is extremely important that everyone wear their personal protective gear before engaging in rebar cutting. The nature of the work can become dangerous, add to that the fast-changing environment of the worksite. Here are some of the personal safety gear a rebar cutter operator should wear.
- Hard hat: This should be a no-brainer. If you are working at a construction site, then you must wear a hard hat. Who knows what could hit you in the head. Someone a few flights up could drop a piece of nail, or worse.
- Safety goggles/face shield: As the user cuts the rebar, the end pieces can fly out at high speeds, which may cause serious injuries, especially if coming from a great height. Wearing eye and face protection such as safety goggles or a full face shield protects your face from the flying metal pieces.
- Heavy-duty safety gloves: Always wear impact resistant work gloves when operating a rebar cutter. Safety gloves help improve your grip when handling rebar. They also protect your hands from cuts, bruises, and other forms of accidental contact. Working at a construction site, your hands form the basis of your bread and butter. Take care of them.
- Steel-toed boots: Wearing steel-toed boots help improve your balance and footing, which comes in handy when cutting rebar twenty stories up. They also protect your feet from flying projectile and heavy objects.
Always wear the required worksite clothing. Remove all nonessential accessories, jewelry and other dangling objects that may get caught up in the rebar cutter’s machinery, or impede your work.
4 – Clear and safe work environment
Always make sure your workplace is clear of obstruction and free of exposed dangerous and flammable chemicals. Never use a rebar cutter near materials that may ignite when exposed to heat such as diesel and petrol. Ensure that your view of the worksite, machine and the rebar are unobstructed.
5 – Secure the work area
Cutting rebar will inevitably produce flying projectile in the form of small pieces of cut metal, which can seriously injure people nearby. Secure the work area by constructing a safety screen to protect people from the metal pieces. The rebar ends can fly out at fast speeds, enough to impale a person. Extend the safety screen to cover the area underneath when working from a height.