There is literally nothing that occurs in the
work place that does not require the use of hands. It is not surprising then
that hand injuries are the most common injury in the work place. These injuries
include cuts, punctures, amputations, fractures, crush injuries and burns. How
does one avoid these types of injuries? Our first impulse is to say “better
glove usage” but is that really true? A review of accident reports will likely
tell you that employees often are wearing appropriate gloves when they injure
their hands. What is the answer then if gloves are not enough? Further review
of the accident report will likely show that the injured worker had his hands
in a position where injury was likely. The hands were in the “danger zone”.
A simple example that we all can relate to is
where you place your hands when you close a door. Keeping your hand on the
handle is a good hand position and allows you to close the door safely. Using
the edge of the door to close it and failing to withdraw your hand quickly
enough results in a painful pinching of the fingers. The hand was left in the
danger zone. Distraction only makes the situation worse.
The primary method to avoid hand
injuries is to keep hands away from hazards or “out of the danger zone”. The secondary method to avoid hand injuries
is to provide protective covering for the hand so that if a hazard is
encountered the glove can protect against that hazard. OSHA 1910.138 states
that employers shall select and require employees to use appropriate hand
protection when employees’ hands are exposed to hazards such as those from skin
absorption of harmful substances; severe cuts or lacerations; severe abrasions;
punctures; chemical burns; thermal burns; and harmful temperature extremes.
It is the responsibility of the employer to
review job tasks to ensure that hands are kept out of the danger zone with the
way the process is set up. If hazards are found, can they be eliminated to make
the job safer? Ensure that employees do not have to place their hands under
suspended loads. Machines with moving parts must be guarded with guards left in
place at all times. An effective barrier must be maintained between hands and
hazards by using tools or other aids (i.e., using a pusher device to push wood
through a saw when the cut is close). Adherence to lock out/tag out is critical
to protect hands.
Care must also be taken to ensure that secondary
sources of energy are also addressed (i.e., bleeding off stored energy in
cylinders, receivers, pipelines) to ensure that injury does not occur from this
source. Good work station housekeeping will ensure that injuries do not occur
as a worker is rummaging through debris to find work tools. Work rules should
include a prohibition on loose clothing on the upper body around any moving
machinery. It is too easy for the loose clothing to get caught in the machinery
and pull the person into the machinery, including a loose sleeve that would
pull a hand into the machinery.
Rings also pose a special problem in that they
can get caught on moving machinery or parts and be pulled off the finger, along
with the flesh and muscle of the finger.
Employees should always be supplied with the correct tools for the job
and tools that are in good condition. Employees who have to exert force,
pushing or pulling, should be taught to be prepared for an unexpected slip or
Gloves can provide a great second line of
defense against hand injury. Gloves are designed to protect against specific
hazards and should be chosen accordingly. It is important that gloves are
properly sized, in good condition and regularly worn.
A toolbox talk to use with your employees is
found at www.asa.net.
This tenth step on the path to an effective
safety program can positively impact your productivity, the health and
well-being of your employees, and a better bottom line.
article was written in conjunction with participants in the OSHA and ASA
Alliance. It does not necessarily reflect the official views of OSHA or the
U.S. Department of Labor.