Hands and fingers are valuable tools that we use for many tasks, but we often take them for granted. Take a few seconds and think about how difficult it would be to perform daily tasks with a broken hand or finger or a severe laceration. A good example to show how difficult it would be is to use a rubber band to connect your thumb and index finger and with the three remaining fingers try to write your name on a piece of paper. This exercise will show you the importance of your hands for even a simple task like writing your name. It is estimated that there are over 500,000 serious and often disabling hand injuries each year. If you recognize the hazards, follow safety guidelines, and use guards, shields, gloves and other personal protective devices, you can greatly reduce the risk of hand injuries.
The following are some of the potential hazards to the hands:
- Cuts and lacerations caused by the use of knives, saws, hand tools or working with metal, band or expanded metal.
- Punctures caused by pushing insulation over pins, coming into contact with exposed wire or use of hand tools.
- Thermal burns cause by welding, working on running units or working around hot pipes.
- Abrasions caused by contact with grinders or scrap metal.
- Caught between or struck by injuries cause be machine guarding, material handling, sliding sheets into place or working with hand or power tools.
- Skin absorption of harmful substances caused by coming into contact with solvents, harmful dusts, pesticides or insecticides.
- Chemical burns caused by coming into contact with acids, caustics or cleaning chemicals.
Keep the following suggestions in mind to reduce your risk of hand injuries:
- Recognize the hazards that exist before beginning work.
- Always know where your hands are. Make sure you have the appropriate lighting and there are even hi visbility gloves that make it easier to see your fingers.
- Watch out for unguarded pinch points.
- Always use guards and other protective devices. Never remove guards.
- Use brushes to wipe away debris, not your hands.
- Inspect equipment before and after tasks to make sure they are in good condition.
- Disconnect power and follow lock out procedures before repair, changing out parts or cleaning equipment.
- Make sure gloves fit properly and are the right type of glove for the task at hand.
While no glove can protect you from all of these hazards, there are gloves designed to reduce these hazards. We have implemented several glove policies to reduce these types of injuries from occurring. The Kevlar glove or cut resistant glove policy is designed to prevent cut, lacerations or abrasions. The puncture resistant glove policy is designed to prevent punctures. There are also gloves that can prevent thermal burns, skin absorption or chemical burns. However there is not a glove that can prevent “caught between” or “struck by” injuries. This is why it is important to pay attention to what you are doing and know where your hands are if the unexpected were to happen.
With so many different hazards it is up to you to know which glove is required in each situation and wear the appropriate glove when performing these tasks. If you have questions, comments or suggestions on our hand protection program please contact Trevor Atherton at (812) 422-3340.