Hand Protection: Safety Topics - March 2019 Week 4


Monday, March 25

Work-related hand injuries are one of the leading reasons workers end up in emergency rooms and miss work. Injuries such as burns, nerve damage, finger loss, or allergic reactions can negatively impact the quality of your work and productivity. Or they could potentially end your career and seriously damage your quality of life.

General Hand Safety

How many times have you grabbed a sharp object or touched a hot surface without even thinking? Felt pain in your hand because of how you were gripping a tool or twisting your wrist? Come close to getting your hand or finger caught or crushed?  Had your skin come in contact with a chemical or caustic material? If you can think of even one time for any of these, it is one time too many.

There are many hazards on the job that can result in a hand injury, including:

  • Punctures, cuts, or lacerations – caused by contact with sharp, spiked or jagged edges on equipment, tools or materials
  • Fractures or amputations – caused by direct contact with gears, belts, wheels and rollers; falling objects; and rings, gloves or clothing getting caught and putting your hand in harm’s way
  • Strains, sprains, and other musculoskeletal injuries – caused by using the wrong tool for the job, or one that is too big, small or heavy for your hand
  • Burns – caused by direct contact with a hot surface or a chemical
  • Dermatitis and other skin disorders – caused by direct contact with chemicals in products and materials

To prevent hand injuries, follow safe working practices and use the PPE and gloves provided by your employer. Be aware of the job tasks, equipment, and materials that can create a risk for a hand injury or put your skin in contact with a chemical. Know the steps to prevent exposures and injuries.

Some tips for wearing gloves:

  • Don’t wear gloves around rotating points of operations such as a drill press or grinder wheel
  • Make sure to use the right glove for the right hazard – cut resistant gloves are very popular and available in a variety of styles, protection and comfort level but they won’t necessarily protect you from chemicals or temperature.

Replace gloves as needed.  Any damage to them could limit their ability to protect you.

Tuesday, March 26

Knives in the Workplace

Knives are extremely dangerous tools. Between 1990 and 2008, 8.2 million ER visits in the U.S. were related to knife use. That is an average of almost 1,200 injuries a day.

According to OSHA, over $300 million is spent each year on hand lacerations. Many of these lacerations are caused by some type of knife use. Injuries can also occur to other body parts in addition to the hands. The legs and abdomen are common injury sites due to cutting in a downward motion or leaving blades open in pockets.

There are many companies that prohibit the use of “fixed open blade” knives while on the job. Utility knives or folding pocket knives that lock the blade into the open position are considered fixed open blade knives. The hazards of these knives need to be considered, and safer knife options should be implemented to reduce injuries.

Not all knives are created equal and not all cutting tasks require knives. Work with a supervisor or safety professional to evaluate work tasks to decide what type of knife is appropriate and safest to use for the job. For some tasks such as cutting plastic banding, clippers or safety scissors are more efficient and safer to use compared to knives.

A common type of safety knife is one with a self-retracting blade. A user has to push a button or apply pressure on the handle on the knife for the blade to be exposed. Once pressure is taken off, the blade retracts back into the knife. This type of knife is referred to as a level 3 safety knife and can reduce injuries.  This type of knife is required at EnPro Industries for all normal material cutting such as cardboard boxes, package opening, and softer sheet materials.

Wednesday, March 27

Helping Hands

When we see someone struggling with a task, naturally, we want to help. Most times, this is perfectly fine; however, there are times when when it is better to not intervene at all.

We all have heard the saying “he did more harm than good”. It is often used when someone has good intentions of helping out, but instead disrupts a work task or hurts themselves in the process.  Many tasks need the proper tools, training, knowledge, and skills for safe and efficient completion.

Consider this example:  An individual is caught up on his duties and decides to help out at the next workstation. He has never been trained on the equipment or this particular task but figures he can handle the task. The task is to punch holes for screws in a computer board.  After an hour of punching holes, he thinks there is a faster way and takes a shortcut.  While doing so, the equipment drill makes contact with his finger and he is injured.

Many employees want to help out their coworkers or look good in front of their supervisors so they will go above and beyond their actual job responsibilities. Many tasks require specific knowledge and skills. Even if a task seems simple on the surface, it is important to fully understand the associated risks before giving a hand to help out.

If you want to help someone on a task, make sure you take a few minutes to have the experienced employee demonstrate and go over all the safety considerations, including reviewing the JHA/JSA.

Does anyone have an example of a person doing more harm than good when trying to give a helping hand?

Thursday, March 28

Hand Tools on the Job

Many injuries occur from improper use of manual hand tools that we take for granted. Hand tools can also function improperly, posing a threat to the user. In this safety topic we will discuss basic hand held tools that are not electric or pneumatic.

Common manual hand tools found on almost every job and at home include hammers, screw drivers, chisels, and wrenches.

  • Hammers– Ensure that the handle is not broken or chipped. If a handle is taped, more than likely it is broken and needs to be replaced. On any tool, tape is not a fix for a needed repair. Ensure the head of the hammer is tight on the handle. Throw the hammer away if part of the claw is broken off.
  • Screwdrivers– Many people will use the screwdriver as a chisel and hit the back end of it with a hammer. This causes damage to the screwdriver and will damage the handle. If the head of the screwdriver is chipped or worn down, replace the screwdriver.
  • Chisels– Chisels are strong tools but will break down over time. Check the back of the chisel. Often times, the back will begin to mushroom. When mushrooming occurs the chisel either needs to be repaired properly or replaced.
  • Wrenches– Check that the wrench is not bent. Replace any wrench that is chipped or excessively worn. Losing the grip on a bolt due to a worn or broken wrench can easily cause hand injuries to the user.  Fixed size wrenches work better than crescent or adjustable size.

When using tools, pay attention to:

  • Cleanliness:  Dirty tools are harder to use safely and properly, and it’s more difficult to see defects such as cracks.
  • Modifications: Do not modify tools. Keep the manufacturer’s design intact.
  • Use: Use the right tool for the right job and only in the way it was designed to be used. This will keep the tool in good condition longer and will keep you safe while using it.

Look at every hand tool in your work area. Turn any manual hand tools into your supervisor that are broken or need replaced.

Friday, March 29

Challenge Accepted?

For this exercise, find two volunteers.  One person will wrap the other’s dominant hand with gauze, making sure to immobilize the fingers.  Wrap the hand enough so that the volunteer does not have any movement of their fingers or use of their fingertips.  Make sure not to wrap it too tight so that any circulation is reduced, just enough to prevent use of the fingers.  Now, ask the volunteer to try performing some basic tasks.

  1. Retrieve a piece of paper and a pen and write down your full name on it. 
  2. Open a bottle of water and have a drink.
  3. Put a glove on the opposite hand, now take it back off.
  4. Pick up a small empty box, open it, place the paper with your name on it inside and re-seal the box.

How well could the volunteer perform these tasks, if at all?  Take a few minutes to discuss things that most people would no longer be able to do without the use of both hands.  How vulnerable does that make you feel?  How is taking any risks with our hands worth it?  Are there hazards in our workplace that can cause such an injury?  What are we doing about those hazards?

Tags: safety topics , injury prevention , osha compliance ,

Subscribe to Updates

Weekly Safety Topics and Coming Events