By: TJ Scimone, Slice, Inc.
July 26, 2018
Why is hand safety so important? Almost every profession requires healthy hands; without them, most workers simply can’t work.
Unfortunately, lacerations and overuse injuries in the hands, wrists, and forearms are some of the most common injuries in the workplace. Such injuries can sideline a worker for days, weeks, or even permanently. They can result in surgery or prolonged physical therapy. They are expensive, and, let’s face it, injuries hurt!
The good news: these occurrences are largely preventable.
Easy Steps to Prevent Hand Injuries
It may be tempting, especially in industries with particularly dangerous environments, to shortcut procedures that address seemingly less dire concerns, like adhering to every little safe-cutting or other hand-safety protocol.
Small routine safety tasks are often the first to be overlooked. This holds particularly true for more experienced workers. They’ve done this a million times, they reason; it’ll be fine.
However, it’s these seemingly mundane precautions that prevent everyday accidents. The following safety steps are the foundation of hand injury prevention.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Before you begin working, make sure your area is free of clutter, and don’t forget to look up. Falling objects can land on your hands and cause injuries.
Also don’t forget to look down: if the job at hand requires you to move around, a misplaced item could cause you to trip. Trips and falls are another common cause of workplace injuries. Most people instinctively put their hands out to catch their fall, which can easily result in hand, wrist, arm, and shoulder injuries.
If you’re using a dangerous tool like a cutting tool, make certain your co-workers are at a safe distance.
Check Your Equipment, Use Your PPE
Tools and PPE always need to be in good working order. Create a maintenance check schedule and stick with it. Never use worn tools or machinery, and fix any loose parts immediately.
Many hand lacerations are caused by cutting tools like box cutters. Make sure your cutting tool is as safe as possible. If you choose a tool with a metal blade, know that they dull quickly. Change any dull blade immediately. A good indication that it’s time for a change is if the tool feels like it’s not cutting smoothly.
Dull blades are dangerous because they require the user to apply excessive pressure, which can easily result in the blade slipping. Make sure blades are kept clean and rust-free.
Always use appropriate PPE. For hands, that means gloves—which are offered with different levels of cut resistance. Be sure that your gloves fit well and are free of holes.
Poor ergonomics is a major culprit in repetitive stress injuries. Be sure that work movements don’t require you to contort into awkward or uncomfortable positions or move in ways that are uncomfortable. This is especially critical with movements you have to do regularly.
Are your tools ergonomic—that is, designed to facilitate the easiest and most natural movements possible? Make sure the tools you use regularly aren’t contributing to aches, pains, and injury.
Back to the topic of cutting tools, consider, are they easy to hold? Do they allow for the easiest cutting motion? Well-designed tools should feel like an extension of your body.
It’s important to take frequent breaks—say, every twenty minutes or so—especially if you perform the same movement again and again. During your break time, stretch and move your hands and wrists in ways that are the opposite to those used for your repetitive task.
Handle Cutting Tools Correctly
While cutting tools will always be a hazard—they are meant to cut things after all—proper handling will reduce the chances of you getting cut or puncturing yourself. Never expose a blade or turn on a power cutter until you have attended to all precautionary measures, like putting on your gloves.
When you are finished using a tool, cover or retract the blade. Never put down a tool with the blade exposed. For machinery, always turn it off as soon as you’re done with it.
Also always use proper technique. When using cutters like a utility knife, cut away from your body. With any cutter, make sure no part of your non-cutting hand is in the path of your blade. Know where your body is in relationship to your cutting tool and where your cutting tool is going at all times.
Stay Alert, Be Mindful
Many accidents are a result of not paying attention to what you’re doing. Distractions, stress, and fatigue all contribute to not being focused. This is particularly dangerous if you’re using sharp objects or power tools like a table saw.
Before you start any task involving cutting tools, take a moment to stop and focus, and double check that you’ve taken all safety precautions. Slow down and center your thoughts on your cutting task to prevent injuries.
Hand Safety: An Important Start for Overall Well-Being
Never lose sight that hands are one of your most precious assets. By taking these simple precautions, you’ll be all but guaranteed to keep your hands safe and healthy, day in, day out.
TJ Scimone founded Slice, Inc. in 2008. He worked with world-class designers to design a full line of safer, ergonomic cutting tools for industry, office, and home. All Slice blades feature the company’s patent-pending finger-friendly® blade edge. TJ has a strong commitment to sharing the safety message, which he does through Slice’s weekly Workplace Safety Blog.
Slice’s website: https://www.sliceproducts.com/