Protecting your fingers and hands is important for your work and quality of life. Work-related hand injuries are one of the leading reasons workers end up in the emergency room and miss work. Damage to the nerves in your fingers and hands, loss of a finger, a skin burn, or allergic reaction can all negatively impact the quality of your work, your productivity, or worse – end your career and seriously detract from your quality of life. The cost of these types of injuries and illnesses to the business is estimated to be hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
As per the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) reports, there are more than 1,000,000 hand injuries a year and a further 20% of disabling workplace injuries involve the hands. The primary cause of hand injuries is equipment not performing as expected. The injury types can be classified as follows:
● Lacerations 63%
● Crush 13%
● Avulsion 8%
● Puncture 6%
● Fracture 5%
The most effective and reliable way to prevent problems in the workplace is to design and operate processes to avoid contact with hazardous materials. Employers should take every step possible to reduce risk before resorting to the use of protective gloves.
A task-speciﬁc risk assessment needs to be carried out to determine the need for protective measures and to determine what measures are the most reasonably practicable for your organization.
Effective control measures usually consist of a mixture of process and/or workplace modifications, applied controls, and methods of working that minimize exposure and make the best use of controls. This mix regularly includes the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
The first step in any risk assessment is to identify the potential hazards and consequences of exposure to these hazards.
“OSHA reports there are more than 1,000,000 hand injuries a year”
Potential hazards to hands and arms
Potential hazards to hands and arms include skin absorption of harmful substances, chemical or thermal burns, electrical dangers, bruises, abrasions, cuts, punctures, fractures or amputations. Relevant protective equipment available includes gloves, finger guards and arm coverings.
Employers should explore all possible engineering and work practice controls to eliminate hazards, and use PPE to provide additional protection against hazards that cannot be completely eliminated through other means. For example, machine guards may eliminate a hazard; installing a barrier to prevent workers from placing their hands at the point of contact between a table saw blade and the item being cut, is another method.
There are a number of different hazards that can cause harm to the hands and arms in the workplace:
Vibrating equipment – hand and arm vibration
In light of a recently completed, comprehensive study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the institute concludes that vibrating hand tools can cause vibration syndrome – the vibration transmitted from work processes into workers’ hands and arms. It can be caused by operating hand-held power tools such as road breakers, hand-guided equipment such as lawnmowers, or by holding materials being processed by machines such as pedestal grinders. Prolonged and regular exposure to this vibration can affect the operator’s health, resulting in painful and disabling disorders of the nerves, blood supply, joints, and muscles of the hands and arms. These disorders are collectively known as hand-arm vibration syndrome.