Hand injuries can be especially traumatic. It strips away one’s ability to work and also the ability to perform activities of daily living.
The two primary types of workplace hand injuries are traumatic events and overuse or repetitive-motion injuries.
Amputations and other serious injuries typically occur because of a lack of experience or training. Current economic conditions may worsen this risk.
Employers may hire less experienced people to fill positions once held by more seasoned workers, or workers who are retained may be assigned to tasks with which they are less familiar, thus increasing the chance for injury.
There are a number of steps employers can take to help reduce the risk of hand injuries and to minimize the impact of those that do occur:
1. Recognize the value of experienced workers, especially on high-risk equipment.
2. Invest in workplace Safety training.
3. Identify opportunities to increase the comfort and ergonomics of tools. Find ways to decrease the amount of force workers must apply to create and assemble parts.
4. Cross-train employees and rotate them during the day, or between shifts, so that they are using different muscle/tendon groups. This will help increase job satisfaction and can decrease the risk of injuries, especially among older workers.
5. Consider an on-site Occupational Health nurse. The presence of a caring, competent nurse communicates to workers that their employer cares about their comfort and Safety.
There are a number of things workers themselves can do to prevent hand injuries:
- Wear the required gloves when you work with chemicals, rough surfaces, sharp instruments, and other materials that might cause hand injuries. Keep the gloves clean and in good condition, and replace them if they are worn out or damaged.
- Never wear gloves when you work on machines such as drills, saws, grinders, or other rotating or moving equipment. Some machines can catch the glove and pull the hand into danger.
- Don’t wear rings, watches, bracelets or necklaces when working on machinery or anything the jewelry might get caught on.
- Use your machine to do the job it was intended for.
- Before you use a machine that is guarded, make sure the guard is in place and the machine itself is working well.
- Remember, machines are guarded for a very good reason. Never put your fingers or your hands through, under, over, or around the guard.
- Watch what you grab. How do you know for sure it isn’t red hot?
- Keep your work area clean and well-arranged so you don’t place a hand in a miscellaneous pile and come away with a cut. Any time you’ve been working with sharp instruments, put them away in their cases, out of harm’s way.
- Use your brain as well as your hands when performing housekeeping tasks in your area. For example, don’t push trash down into a trash can with your fingers-someone else may have thrown in broken glass, hardware, or a solvent-soaked rag or towel.
- Keep your hands clean, washing them often with soap and warm water to help prevent dermatitis. Barrier hand creams put on before beginning a job can also protect against skin irritants.
Remind your workers that one careless moment can result in a hand injury that could change their lives forever.