Open any tool catalogue and you’ll see a vast  selection of products to help you cut, mix, level, drill, fix and measure things on-site. FIS’s technical manager, Joe Cilia, considers how innovation in this sector means that the new ‘tools’ being made  available enable you to carry out these daily site tasks more safely and efficiently.

As the old proverb goes, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. Where the safety of operatives was not the priority, this need-driven invention resulted in a huge array of tools  being produced, many of which would not be allowed on-site in  today’s construction world: the noise, vibration, dust and, in some cases, trailing leads associated with these tools could lead to risk of injury or long-term damage.

Ongoing changes in legislation combined with the aim of being more productive and delivering efficiencies on-site have driven manufacturers to innovate with safer products, such as knives with retractable blades for cutting plasterboard and ceiling tiles, and lighter, cable-free and ergonomically designed power tools that can be used for long periods with reduced risk of vibration.

Keeping dust under  close control

In the feature on keeping safe in the workplace from November’s SpecFinish, the critical topic of minimising dust was covered. Tools that suppress and collect dust at source have seen huge innovation in recent years. One  manufacturer focusing on  developing tools with  dust-extraction features for safer working practices is Hilti. “By using Hilti’s dust reduction systems (DRS) airborne dust is significantly reduced. It isn’t the visible dust on the surface that’s the concern; it’s the dust we can’t see,” explained Richard Gunn, trade manager at Hilti GB.

Safer fixing calculations

Drills with dust suppression are especially useful when installing anchors used for suspended ceilings to avoid being in the path of dust when drilling overhead. Fixings is an area where FIS has seen the greatest number of failures due either to inferior products or, more often, a lack of knowledge resulting in the wrong anchor being installed. A couple of recent examples being steel anchors used in swimming pools which corrode due to the humid and corrosive atmosphere, and an installation not meeting the manufacturer’s instructions on drill size, depth or setting.

FIS has helped to address these risks in its ‘Best Practice Guide –  Selection and Installation of Top Fixings for Suspended Ceilings’, which is available from Manufacturers have always  provided technical support and instructions to help with choosing the most suitable fixing for the job, and more recently this advice has become available digitally with both Hilti and ITW now making  digital fixings calculators available on their websites and for  downloading as apps  ( and

Power tool  manufacturers are continually achieving increased power and higher performance levels with their cordless tools, meaning there’s less of a need to revert to the corded option for heavy duty tasks. And multi-battery charging stations positioned safely next to their power supply help avoid trailing cables and recharge tools quickly and efficiently.

Digital tools for efficient working

As highlighted in the  ‘Waking up to digitisation’ article in the November issue of SpecFinish, new digital tools are helping  companies to be more efficient  on-site. In addition to those  discussed, digital site diaries that allow documents to be viewed and annotated, and progress reports with photographs that can be produced without ever going back to the site office, are on the increase.

Construction services company ISG is just one that’s experiencing efficiencies with digital tools. The company’s head of BIM Fit Out and Engineering Services and chair of BIM4FitOut, Mark Norton, explained: “Development and use of digital site tools has significantly increased over the past year giving tier 1s and supply chain members greater opportunity not only to work more safely but to increase efficiency and  reporting accuracy.

“Tools such as SnagR and Autodesk’s BIM360 all deliver a  smoother single-handed process of tracking progress, snagging and reporting, all from the comfort of a tablet or smartphone. The use of  robotic total stations has also gathered traction on-site, delivering quick and accurate site  dimensioning and marking out.”

Mr Norton added: “Geospatial equipment will revolutionise the way that setting out is done – gone will be tapes and drawings and in will come digital setting out from a mobile tool that uses data from a BIM model and lasers.”

Digital ‘tools’ come in many forms, shapes and sizes, but they have one thing in common: they help to make construction more efficient. Are there any ‘tools’ that you’re finding to be worth their weight in gold when it comes to  reducing risks and raising  productivity? Let us know by  emailing

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Joe Cilia