Having a hand injury can make everyday tasks that we take for granted a challenge. For many people, most hand injuries are only for a short time, but for others, it is permanent. Try buttoning up your shirt, typing on a keyboard, or using your phone with only one hand. While not impossible, these task become harder and take longer if we loose the use of on of our hands.
The most common hand injuries in the workplace include lacerations, crushes, amputations, punctures and fractures. In most work sites, hand injuries result from physical or chemical hazards and result in burns, bruises, abrasions, cuts, punctures, fractures, amputations and chemical exposure. Hand injuries are preventable by developing a proper hand safety program, you can ensure the safety of your employees and prevent these life-altering injuries. Here is a list of things you can do to prevent hand injuries in the workplace.
What type of hand injuries have your employees experienced?
Review your injury records to look for a trend or a frequency issue. This will tell you that something is going on and something needs to change. Determine if improper tool or equipment handling, lack of proper glove use, or chemical exposures was the main cause. Re-training of employees is crucial for eliminating these injuries in the future. If there is a trend, it is likely that something needs to change.
Perform a Hazard Assessment
The next step is to perform another hazard assessment based on the injuries or if the job or hazards has changes. OSHA requires all employers that assess the hazards that require PPE for their employees. Some of the hand hazards that could exist include: Using knives or box cutters, handling sharp edged materials, heat/cold, electrical, equipment that cut, crush, or pinch, and amputation.
Determine Proper PPE and Safe Work Practices
After you know the hazards, match the proper PPE for the job or activity. This requires selecting the proper glove to the hazards that are present in specific job functions within your company. The use of other protective measures (machine guarding) and safe work practices should be put in place.
Train Your Employees
Training your employees how to properly use the selected PPE and what it’s limitations are. They also need to know when , and how to get new or replacement PPE .
Communicate, Re-train, and Reinforce The Message
Have safety meetings, verbal reminders and use posters or handouts to build awareness. These are constant reminders to keep the topic on everyone’s mind.
Next, we will look at the most common type of hand injury, lacerations and punctures.
In almost every industry sharp tools are essential to many kinds of work, but sharp or pointed objects can be hazardous and often cause painful and life changing injuries. Types of injuries include cuts, punctures, nicks, and gashes that can lead to serious infections or diseases. These injuries can be prevented through employee training, protective gloves, machine guards, and proper equipment maintenance. But the important thing to remember, gloves are just a last line of defense. The best way to avoid injuries is to change the way a process or task is completed which removes the hazard or reduces the chance for an injury to occur.
Prevent injuries from sharp objects by taking safety precautions:
· Always stay alert and focused on keeping your hands safe.
· Select the right tool for the job. Use sharp items only as they were designed
· Wear gloves resistant to punctures, cuts, or moisture. Choose gloves based on the hazards normally expected for the task.
· Never cut toward the palm of your hand. Always in the opposite direction, away from you.
· Let falling objects fall. Don’t grab for falling cutting tools, sharp instruments or glassware. Its better to clean up a mess or replace the item rather than risk injury or infection
· Store sharps safety. Take the time to ensure that instruments can be reached easily but pose no threat of injury. Don’t carry loose sharp items in your pocket.
· Follow clean up precautions at all times. Dispose of defective sharps and chipped or cracked glassware properly. Wear gloves, or use a damp towel to pick up broken glass.
· Don’t reach into wastebaskets or disposal containers with bare hands, they could contain broken glass or sharps. Sharp material poking through bags can easily cut unprotected hands or legs. Lift plastic bags from their tie-off point and paper bags by their edges whenever possible and hold bags away from the body. Never “bear hug” a bag or throw it over your back.
· Make sure guards are in place on machinery with cutting blades. They are there to protect you and removing them only increases the chance that an injury will occur.
Improper handling of sharp objects is one of the leading causes of injuries from them. Don’t rush or take shortcuts when handling sharp equipment or tools. Protect yourself and others by handling sharp objects safely by knowing the risks involved.