Safety Precautions for Tape Measures

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Tape measures can cause injuries when used improperly.
Image Credit: Jean-philippe WALLET/iStock/GettyImages

Tape measures are one of the most basic and useful tools for everything from hanging wall art to building a deck. A tape measure can't cut off a finger like a table saw or puncture your body like a nail gun, but it comes with some safety considerations you need to observe. Tape measures can cause injuries when used improperly, and they can damage breakable items in your home. Handling it with care allows you to get the measurements you need without a trip to the ER.


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Secure It at a Height

If you're on a ladder, deck, roof or another elevated location with your tape measure in hand, keep it secured to prevent it from falling. A metal tape measure can cause serious injury to someone below, especially if it hits the person on the head. It can also break windows, decorations or other fragile items below you.

Place the tape measure in a tool belt while you're working at any height or secure it to your belt using the attached clip. When using the tape measure, hold onto it securely, being careful not to let it slip. Avoid leaning to the side of the ladder or leaning over the edge of a roof or deck to read the tape measure or perform measurements.


Be Cautious Around Electricity

If you're using a metal tape measure near a power line or electrical wires, you're at risk for electrical shock. A steel tape measure conducts electricity, making it more of a hazard for shocks. If you use your tape measure around electricity frequently, a fiberglass tape measure is a safer option because it doesn't conduct electricity. No matter what type of tape measure you use, avoid touching it to live wires or power lines.

Retract Tape Measures Slowly

Learning how to use the tape measure and understanding the tape measure parts helps you operate it safely. When you're finished measuring, you can press a button to retract the tape but don't press it down hard and let the tape measure fly back quickly. This quick return of the blade can damage the mechanism that controls it.


If the blade is out of control, it can swing back and hit your face or hit someone else standing nearby. It can also hit, knock over or break objects that are in the way. Instead, press the button slowly and guide the tape back to retract it in a controlled manner.

Keep Them Away From Kids

A tape measure isn't the most dangerous tool kids can get their hands on, but it can still cause injuries. A child might drop the tape measure over a stair railing or from another high spot and hurt someone or cause damage. Kids often enjoy pulling out the tape measure and retracting it, but they often can't control the tape when it goes back into the unit. The tape measure might poke your child in the eye or knock over breakable items.


Maintain Your Tape Measure

Tape measure maintenance ensures the tool stays in good shape and offers accurate measurements. Keep metal tape measures out of the sun, as they can become hot to the touch. The heat can also cause them to stretch or expand, which makes the measurements inaccurate. Watch for tears or snags along the edge of your tape measure. This can cause cuts on your hands as you use the tape measure, and it can make the measurements inaccurate.



Shelley Frost combines her love of DIY and writing in her freelance career. She has first-hand experience with tiling, painting, refinishing hardwood floors, installing lighting, roofing and many other home improvement projects. She keeps her DIY skills fresh with regular projects around the house and extensive writing work on the topic.