Hand Safety and Injury Prevention

Hand Safety and Injury Prevention

Hand injuries happen in a flash, but their impact can last forever. Some workers lose hands; others develop an infection or need surgery. That alone is reason enough to make hand safety a priority in any workplace.

Keeping workers safe takes planning and training. Companies with good safety records not only provide the right tools for the job, they also have appropriate safeguards around sharp objects, moving parts, and automated machines.

Where Hand Safety is Most Important

More than 100,000 workers in private industry suffered hand injuries in 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Forty-three percent of those hand injuries were in three high-risk workplaces:

Prevention is especially important when workers use dangerous tools and machines with pinch points, rotating parts, hot and cold spots, or automation.

The most common types of hand injuries are bruises, pinches, lacerations, abrasions, strains, amputations, dislocations, carpal tunnel syndrome, and Raynaud’s disease. Recovering from an injury like a deep cut might affect a worker’s daily life for months.

Wearing a Ring Changed Robert’s Life

One of the simplest hand injury prevention tips is to require everyone to take their rings off on a job site. Take the following true story, for example. Robert Whitfield, an Air Force weapons deployment support employee, was just about to leave work on lunch break when a coworker stopped him and asked if he would check a connection up in an aircraft bay. Robert had put his wedding ring back on as he prepared to leave for lunch, but didn’t think to take it back off when his coworker asked for help.

As he jumped down from the bay after checking the connection, Robert’s ring caught on an object, severely damaging the bone and tissue and resulting in a partial amputation.

Because of Robert’s accident, new policies and training were enacted within his workplace.

However, complications from his injury drastically altered Robert’s quality of life. He had a painful recovery period and financial issues that almost caused him to lose his home. Now, 30 years later, Robert works as a corporate safety specialist, sharing his story and teaching workers how to keep their healthy hands.

Training Your Team to Avoid Potential Hazards

As Robert’s story illustrates, workers play a big role in preventing serious hand injuries. The first step in safety training is ensuring employees know the hazards involved with their jobs and how to avoid them. As a safety or training manager, your next step is putting systems in place to prevent these leading causes of serious injury:

Communicate about the risks to workers regularly and pay close attention to morale on your job site to keep everyone positive and focused on their work.

Three Components of an Effective Safety Program

Best practices for an occupational safety program include three ways to prevent workplace hand injuries: Engineering controls, administrative controls, and PPE.

Engineering Controls

Engineering controls reduce hazards by using equipment with built-in safety systems. Common types of engineering controls include safety guards, electrical proximity limiting devices, emergency stop devices, and ergonomic tools.

Administrative Controls

Administrative controls are procedures management puts in place and are useful when engineering controls either cannot be implemented or cannot alone effectively reduce risk around a specific hazard. Administrative controls include:

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

When engineering and administrative controls are not feasible or sufficient, companies must provide PPE–usually meaning work gloves–to protect workers in danger of hand injuries.

The Right Gloves for the Job

When it comes to hand injury prevention techniques, the answer is simple, wear appropriate work gloves. The proper gloves keep germs and hazardous chemicals off the skin, stop splinters and slivers, resist punctures and cuts from sharp objects or materials, and protect against heat and cold.

Because loose-fitting gloves can get caught in machinery, it is critical for workers to wear gloves that fit correctly. For safety’s sake, workers need to examine their gloves for damage and wear every time they go to work and put them on.

The right safety precautions include assessing the safety gear necessary for the hazards of every job on your site. Types of gloves and their uses include:

While over 100,000 workers suffer hand injuries per year, many of those are preventable through changing worker behavior and correct use of PPE. We can all make a meaningful difference in hand safety at our worksites, even by simply sharing this post with colleagues and managers.

Want to talk to an HSI consultant about improving worker safety at your company? Contact us today.

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