Protecting your fingers and hands is critical for work and your quality of life. Work-related hand injuries are one of the leading reasons workers end up in the emergency room and experience lost time. In 2011, OSHA published a statistics that over 1,000,000 hand injuries occur a Year – This breaks down to 20% of disabling workplace injuries involving the hands(Lacerations 63% Crush injuries 13% Avulsion 8% Puncture 6% and Fractures 5%).Despite the precautions we take, minor hand injuries commonly occur from time to time. Hands are exposed to many hazards, such as cuts from sharp objects, smashing and pinching from moving machinery, joint and nerve pain, environmental contact (heat, cold, plants, insects), and chemicals.Nerve damage, amputation, a skin burn or other soft tissue injury, can negatively impact work, your productivity – or worse – end your career and seriously detract from your quality of life.
Common causes of hand injuries
Improper use of tools or using the incorrect tool
Lifting or applying force incorrectly
Using the wrong PPE or failing to utilize PPE
Distraction and lack of awareness/focus due to complacency
Inadequate assessment of risk
Bypassing safety procedures
Cutting corners or rushing
Type of Injuries
Punctures, cuts or lacerations caused by contact with sharp, spiked or jagged edges on equipment, tools or materials.
Crush injuries, fractures or amputations caused by contact with hammers, manhole lids, gears, belts, wheels and rollers, falling objects, machinery or other moving parts.
Rings, gloves or clothing getting caught and putting your hand in harm’s way.
Strains, sprains, and other Musculoskeletal injuries caused by using the wrong tool for the job, or one that is too big, small or heavy for your hand.
Burns caused by direct contact with a hot surface or a chemical.
Rashes and other skin disorders caused by direct contact with chemicals in products and materials.
How can one protect their hands from injury at work?
Always use machinery guards.
Always stay alert and focused on keeping your hands safe – not just at the start of work or a task.
Use appropriate work gloves and PPR when handling rough materials and when hands are directly involved with lifting or moving objects
Make sure the work gloves offer the right combination of dexterity and protection needed for the job/task.
Take time to remove nails, splinters and sharp edges on materials before you begin working with them.
When moving objects with a hand cart or truck, make sure that you have sufficient room to get through doorways and small spaces with enough clearance for the cart and hands.
Keep hands free of grease and oil – slippery hands can get you in trouble.
For safety’s sake, do not wear any rings or jewelry when working – a ring caught in machinery or on a protruding object can badly damage a finger.
Use tools and equipment designed for the work being performed and use them as instructed by the manufacturer.
Don’t put your hands or fingers near the moving parts of a power tool or equipment. Make sure machinery, equipment and power tools are completely off before you try replacing, cleaning or repairing parts – follow lock-out/tag-out procedures.
Keep hands and fingers away from sharp edges (blades, protruding nails, etc.). Never cut toward the palm of your hand.
Select hand tools that are ergonomic for your hand (the right size, lowest weight, and have features such as grips, anti-vibration handles, handles angles that allow you to work without your wrist bent.)
Wear gloves to pick up broken glass, nails or other sharp objects – including when sweeping up. Never attempt to handle these things with your bare hands.
Keep your hands in places where you can see them. Avoid putting them out of your line of sight.
Work smarter rather than working faster.
Do not count on your reflexes to save your hands and fingers.
Check tools and equipment to make sure they are in proper working order before beginning a task.
The contents of this article is provided as information-only and does not substitute workplace training, competency, legislative or industrial requirements. SET Safety and/ or the author is not responsible for the accuracy or validity of this information. SET Safety and/or the author does not accept liability for the reliability, accuracy or completeness of the information presented. This article does not substitute legal, jurisdictional or professional advice. The reader bears all responsibility to seek professional guidance or advice on any information noted in this blog or related to the content of this blog.