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A Safety Utility Knife for the Workplace: Find Your Match

Occupation Health and Safety (OHS) professionals are always looking for new ways to reduce common workplace injuries like lacerations, and replacing a dangerous utility knife with a safety utility knife is an excellent start. No matter how much effort goes into utility knife safety training, the fact remains that dangerous metal blades dull quickly, rust easily, and pose a threat to workers. Although many manufacturers have tackled improving the design of safety knives for work, most safety cutting tools only mitigate some of the possible risks posed by hand-held knives.

Handle Styles for Safety Knives

The easiest, and by far most common, way to improve the safety of utility knives is to redesign the handle. Usually, changes in the handle affect blade exposure, particularly when the knife is not actively cutting. There are two ways to do this: recessing the blade (as in a hooked blade) so the user can’t touch the edge accidentally, and creating some form of retractable safety knife. Micro-ceramic blades are a third safety option, but their cuts are too shallow to truly replace a utility-style knife.

Until recently, the only option for blade retraction was an auto-retracting utility knife. This style requires the user to engage a button or slider to keep the blade exposed. In this way, the blade retracts after use even if the user forgets to actively sheathe the blade.

Smart Retract: A Class of its Own

The new style of self-retracting utility knife takes safety one step further, preventing accidental injuries if the knife slips during the act of slicing. In these tools, the blade pulls back into the housing as soon as it loses contact with the cutting material—even when the user’s thumb is still on the slider. The Slice® 10558 Smart-Retracting Utility Knife is our safest knife yet and, we believe, the safest knife on the market. In the following video, our founder TJ Scimone demonstrates the Smart Retract feature.

The Slice 10558 Smart-Retracting Safety Utility Knife
The Slice 10558 features Smart Retract technology for added safety.

Many safety managers require that workers use auto-retractable handles for safety reasons. A standard worker complaint is that, over the course of a long shift, the strain of pushing and releasing the slider to engage the blade causes fatigue or even repetitive strain injury. The Slice 10558 Smart-Retracting Utility Knife offers a solution: Ergo Pull™ technology.

Slice developed Ergo-Pull to improve the long-term health of workers using the Smart-Retracting Utility Knife. Instead of pushing a slider to expose the blade, the user pulls. This may seem like a small change, but third-party independent testing proves that the Ergo Pull slider reduces muscular effort in the hand, forearm, and upper arm muscles.* Slice’s better design reduces the chance of long-term injuries, therefore lowering company costs.


Why a Ceramic Safety Knife?

New handle designs do a good job of reducing blade exposure and repetitive strain, but that only partially reduces the danger. After all, what cuts you: the handle or the blade?

Table lists risks associated with knives and which risks can be prevented with better handle design or a safer blade
Only a small portion of the risks users face are addressed by new handle designs, which is why Slice redesigned the blade.

As you can see, only about 20 percent of the risks caused by utility knives are adequately addressed with better handles. In the end, if your skin comes in contact with a dangerous metal blade, you’re likely to get injured. That’s why Slice believes strongly in the power of a better blade. When we designed our safety utility knives, we included our ceramic safety blades™ with our proprietary finger-friendly® grind because we know that they’re much safer than metal blades.

When you ask, “what is a utility knife used for?”, you’ll find that it’s defined by its versatility and durability (in other words, “utility”). The utility knife is one of the most common hand tools in any workplace and therefore a natural starting point for safety improvements. But before you choose a safety utility knife, make sure you understand safety from every angle, and especially from the cutting edge.


* Independently tested in September 2016 by United States Ergonomics, Sea Cliff, NY

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