Carton Cutter Knives: 6 Ways to Stay Safe in the Workplace

Workers rely on carton cutter knives to open packages in warehouses, factories, retail stores, and many other workplaces. But even the safest, most user-friendly tool can pose a risk if used incorrectly.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, cuts and lacerations are two of the most common forms of workplace injuries in the U.S. They accounted for 15,380 cases in the manufacturing industry throughout 2019.

It’s unclear how many were caused by improper use of equipment or other safety failings. However, workers with no idea how to handle cutting tools correctly can become an unintended threat to themselves and others.

That’s why teams should always have access to clear guidance on how to use carton cutter knives properly. This reduces their risk of:

  • Cutting themselves
  • Injuring co-workers
  • Damaging products when opening packaging
  • Breaking the knife

Here are six ways for workers to handle a blade safely.

Adopt a Secure Cutting Position

It’s easy for workers to get complacent when they cut open dozens or hundreds of cartons per day. They might forget (or choose to overlook) basic safety requirements, including proper positioning.

First and foremost, workers should stand a safe distance from a carton before they start to cut it open. A worker should also never hold a carton against their body when cutting it open, no matter how small it might be.

It only takes the briefest lapse in concentration or a misjudged cut to cause an injury to the hand or body. Workers need to check that the immediate surrounding area is clear of co-workers too.

Manual Blade or Auto-Retractable Blade: Use Both Safely

Managers often provide auto-retracting knives to protect workers who might forget to retract the blade when not in use. But holding the slider can become tiring when cutting consistently for long periods. They may use tape to keep their knives open as a quick solution.

This creates a risk of injury. For example, they might put the cutter aside without fully retracting the blade, endangering a co-worker who picks it up without checking. Or they may forget they left the blade exposed and injure their own hand later.

Compliance is a major barrier to effective safety in these cases. One simple solution is to provide workers with a manual-retraction tool with a safer blade, such as a carton cutter knife. This cuts cardboard, shrink wrap, foam, and similar materials effectively without posing a risk to the user.

Posting signs to remind workers about the safe way to handle blades could potentially help them get into the habit of checking before putting a knife aside, whether it’s a manual retraction blade or auto-retractable blade.

Take Safety Beyond Gloves to Reduce Risks to Workers

Cut-resistant gloves should be available to any workers who need to handle carton cutter knives. It’s not enough to invest in one or two pairs for a team of people, though. If the gloves go missing, workers could choose to risk their safety instead of taking the time to find them first.

But good workplace safety goes beyond gloves. Cuts can happen all over the body (e.g., the arms or abdomen) when busy workers underestimate the sharpness of their cutting tool.

One of the simplest, most effective ways to help protect workers is to supply them with safer blade designs that can help keep them safe from head to toe. You may need to try a new supplier to access more innovative, safety-centric cutter knives instead of relying on traditional steel blades.

For example, switching to ceramic blades can provide significantly safer performance than standard steel cutting tools. These are manufactured to effectively cut various materials and last longer than standard steel blades, but their safety-focused designs protect users from accidental cuts.

This may enable your team to switch to finer, more flexible cut-resistant gloves — rigorous testing in one study shows that workers used thinner gloves when they switched to Slice’s ceramic safety blades. But glove policies are a bit too involved to create a one-size-fits-all approach, with application, user variation, maneuverability, and cost all being factors in why teams do and don’t still need gloves.

Only Expose Enough Blade Required for Cutting

Some carton cutter tools include just enough blade to cut into boxes, but others allow their blade to be extended much further.

Workers may not realize they’ve pushed a blade out to its maximum length when they start cutting a carton. As a result, the tip could damage the container’s contents or pass through the other side of thin packaging. And a nasty accident might happen if the worker is holding that side of the carton with their free hand.

Ensure anyone handling a knife understands the risk of over-extending the blade. Invest in a carton cutter with limited blade exposure to increase safety further.

Replace Blades In Carton Cutter Knives As Soon As Possible

Even the best carton cutter knives and box cutters need replacement blades eventually. Workers may feel they need to exert extra pressure on the tool if it no longer cuts as effectively as required. That can cause them to accidentally push further through cartons than they expect and damage items inside.

Alternatively, they could misjudge how dangerous a blunt blade is and cut themselves or someone else. Replace a blade when it stops cutting as smoothly as it should to help workers avoid these problems.

This short video shows how to replace blades in traditional snap-off box cutters:

If you want to make things easier, provide workers with cutters designed for a convenient, no-tool blade change. That gives them less reason to ignore a blunt edge. And, of course, blades that last longer will reduce the frequency of potentially dangerous blade changes.

Implement Safe Disposal of Used Blades as Required

Proper disposal is crucial when replacing traditional blades in standard cutting tools. Workers should never dump them in a general-waste bin or (worse) leave them out in the open. Co-workers or cleaning staff can cut themselves if they have no reason to suspect a garbage bag they’re handling contains sharp objects.

Set up a dedicated disposal space for used traditional blades to cut down on potential dangers. All used traditional blades should be disposed of safely, no matter how blunt they seem.

The disposal process is safer with Slice ceramic safety blades. We offer two types: rounded-tip blades and pointed-tip blades.

Slice’s proprietary blade edge, combined with the rounded tips on many of our blades, reduces the chance of cuts or accidental punctures so significantly that they don’t need to be disposed of in a special sharps box. However, ceramic blades and all metal blades that are dangerously sharp should be disposed of in this special way. Pointed tips are more likely to cause punctures. Dispose of them sensibly to protect anyone handling waste in your workplace.

Promoting proper safety when handling carton cutter knives reduces the likelihood of blade-related injuries that could result in productivity disruptions, legal issues, and avoidable expenses.