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What are powder actuated tools? 

Powder actuated tools (PATs) are fastening devices used to connect material to hard surfaces such as steel, masonry and concrete. 

PATs have three key components:  

  1. The fastener which is manufactured with special steel and heat treated to penetrate concrete and steel without breaking. They can be drive pins for permanent fastening, threaded studs for removable applications or specialty studs for unique installation applications.  
  2. The energy source also known as the powder load which is a rimfire brass cartridge containing gun powder. When the rim is struck by the functioning of the tool, the internal primer ignites the powder and releases gas, which in turn creates pressure and launches the fastener. 
  3.  The tool itself, which contains the reaction of the energy source.

How can workers using PATs stay safe? 

PATs have the potential to be dangerous because of their small controlled explosions of gun powder. 

Employees must be trained and certified in the correct use of a powder actuated tool. Upon successful training, the employee can obtain an operator’s permit. Non-certified employees cannot use the tool under any circumstance. 

The qualifications to become an operator can be trained by a qualified instructor, or the Powder Actuated Tool Manufactures’ Institute (PATMI). PATMI is made up of manufactures of the tools who promote safe use. They offer online training on their website. Employees using powder actuated tools should carry their certification card on them at all times. 

How can I make sure I am using them safely?  

  • Never store different level power loads in the same container.  
  • Never use a power load that exceeds the rating of the specific tool. (Loads are categorized by color.) 
  • Always inspect the tool prior to use as well as a thorough inspection according the manufacturer’s recommendations. Any tool that appears damaged or inoperable should be tagged and taken out of service.
  • Store the power loads properly and away from potential hazards including but not limited to; equipment running over power loads, material falling on power loads, and employees using the tools/ammunition without proper certification.  
  • Never use a powder actuated tool in a flammable atmosphere. 
  • Post signage around the area where PATs are used to inform employees of the potential hazards.  
  • Store PATs in lockable containers when not in use. All tools and tool containers should include the following: 
  • Operating instructions and service manual. 
  • Power load and fastener chart. 
  • Tool inspection and service record.
  • Service tools and accessories. 

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