Hand Injury Prevention
According to Statistics Canada, the most common body part injured in the workplace is the hand, at 28% of all injuries. The same study also showed that those in sales and service are more likely to have hand injuries. Worksafe BC also showed in a study of their own that of the Top 7 Dangers faced by young worker, four of them will result in injuries to the hands. This week, Paragon Safety Ltd. will be discussing the types of injuries that can happen to hands and hand injury prevention.
The WorkSafe BC article listed working with knives as the number three danger and working with food slicers as number six as a danger for young workers. Other industries such as manufacturing and construction also have a high risk of cuts. Whether from tools and equipment or from the material that is being used, sharp edges can cause injuries easily and in varying degrees of seriousness.
To prevent most cut injuries, gloves are usually the first choice. This is especially true for material handling, where it may not be possible to take the sharp edges of a piece of glass or metal. In other industries, such as cooking, it is important to remember that a sharp tool is a safe tool. A dull knife or saw means that a worker will have to put more force on the blade, which may cause it to slip. Using the right tool also helps. For example, using the right size screwdriver will prevent the tip from slipping out of the head.
Burns can happen to any body part, but for this article, I am going to focus on burns to the hand. Handling hot material, whether a cooking tray or roaster from the oven or hydraulic fluid in a piece of construction equipment, must be done safely. While the hand is small compared to the rest of the body, a burn to the hand can mean a very serious short or long term disability. A burn injury can damage skin and nerves, making it hard to return to work.
Burns can be caused by heat, hot fluid, electricity, radiation, lasers and chemicals. Because of the wide variety of causes of burn injuries, the solutions will also be various. That is why, specific work procedures with working with all these causes would be the only catch all. Proper personal protective equipment, procedures, checking MSDS must all be listed in such work procedures to prevent burns.
Crushing/Pinch Point Injuries
Hands and fingers can be severely injured by being caught between two objects. Crushing injuries can break the small bones in the hand. This can happen in construction or warehouse work when a worker tries to move a heavy object or if something is dropped on it. Pinch point injuries can occur in instances when machinery is running and the worker reaches in, or, as in my case, a finger or hand is caught between two closing hinges.
A list of all potential pinch points should be kept by an employer. Never reach into moving machinery and if working around equipment, never wear loose fitting clothing that if caught on the machinery, could drag your hand and arm into it. Stay focused on your job so that you don’t put your hand anywhere it shouldn’t be. Never place any part of your body in line with a piece of equipment that has not been de-energized and blocked. Watch where you place your fingers.
Hand injuries are common because almost all jobs require us to use our hands. Hand injury prevention should be a priority for everyone. Many of the injuries that can happen to a hand can result in long term recovery time for the worker and a lost time injury for the employer. With the steps listed in this article, as well as more specific steps to take to prevent burns, maybe we can start to lessen the number of hand injuries. That is a thought to hold on to.