This in-depth and informative article on hand injuries from Safety Toolbox Topics provides important injury prevention tips and recommendations.
Each year in the US over 16 million people suffer hand injuries; over 250,000 of those are serious and disabling. The hand is one of the most complex parts of your body – the movement of the tendons, bones, tissues and nerves allows you to grip and do a wide variety of complex jobs.
Without your hands it would be extremely difficult to do routine simple tasks, such as opening doors, using a fork, or tying your shoes. Tuck your thumb into your palm and imagine trying to tie your shoes. It would be extremely difficult.
Hand injuries are difficult to repair because of the complexity of the hand. After a hand injury, the hand may not function as it did before the injury due to loss of motion, dexterity and grip.
Over 25% of all industrial injuries involve the hand, wrist and fingers. Typical injuries include:
- Puncture wounds
- Broken fingers
- Thermal Burns
- Chemical Burns
These injuries occur when:
- Cutting or using a sharp tool
- Using hand tools
- Reaching into moving parts
- Working with chemicals
- Touching something hazardous (electrical or thermal)
Here are some tips to prevent hand injuries:
In a recent study of hand injuries the leading cause of injury was contact with cutting or piercing objects, most often pieces of metal, razors and knives, power tools and nails. Fingers and hands were the most-injured body parts among the workers in this study, accounting for one-third of emergency room visits. About 15 percent of these injuries were amputations, partial amputations, crushes and fractures. About 63 per cent involved a laceration.
So how can we reduce hand injuries? Wearing gloves reduced the relative risk of injury by 60 percent, the appropriate work gloves used when handling or working around cut hazards had dramatically reduced lacerations.
The same study also showed that workers reported that they had worn gloves only 27 percent of the work time, and only 19 percent reported wearing gloves at the time of the injury. Gloves are only effective when you wear them. Understand, Gloves only can protect a person from injury so much as they are the last line for protection. Understanding the task, what the hazards are, and if and how the hazard(s) is controlled is the number one way you can keep your hands safe.
Here are some facts about hand injuries and hand tools:
- Some 30,000 persons are injured annually using hammers.
- 25,000 using standard blade screwdrivers & crescent wrenches.
- Each year, more than 115,000 Americans end up in the emergency room as a result of hand-tool-related injuries.
The improper use of hand tools causes many injuries everyday throughout the United States. Tools are not used as intended, they are used improperly or they are in poor condition. It is very important to inspect any hand tool prior to its use. Ensure the tool is not worn, broken and is in good working condition.
- Never use a hammer with a splintered, cracked, or loose handle
- Don’t use hammers with rounded striking faces
- Don’t strike a hammer face with another hammer
- Don’t use nail hammer claws as a pry bar
- Use the correct sized wrench for the job
- Don’t use pliers or crescent wrenches on bolt and nuts, use the proper wrench.
- Pull on wrenches rather than pushing them
- Never use a cheater bar on a wrench
- When using screwdrivers, place the object on a flat surface or in a vise, don’t hold it in your hand!
- Don’t use screwdrivers as chisels or pry bars
- Use the correct size driver for the screw
- Don’t use screwdrivers with chipped tips
- One way chemicals can enter our bodies is through absorption through the skin. More often than not, this occurs through the hands as we handle various chemicals. It’s important to read the label and to know the chemicals you are working with and to utilize protective gloves when handling chemicals.
- Chemicals can cause irritations to your skin. Most of the time this isn’t acute and doesn’t occur with just one unprotected handling of the chemical, but it’s with repeated unprotected handling of the chemical. Detergents and solvents can dry out your skin and dissolve the oils in your hands. Your hands may develop a rash that is further irritated as you use your hands to work on various tasks. Continued abrasion of the tender skin can cause you further irritation and discomfort.
- Also some chemicals such as caustic Sodium Hydroxide can cause a burn to your hands. Very acidic or caustic chemicals can immediately burn your skin from contact.
- It’s important you protect your skin with gloves. More importantly, the right glove for the chemicals you are handling. Not all gloves are made the same. Neoprene gloves work great for many workplace chemicals such as solvents and detergents. However they are not effective for some chemicals such as Benzene. Latex gloves don’t work well with many solvents. Cut-resistant gloves work well on sharp objects, but won’t do a thing against chemicals.
- Even after using gloves, you should wash your hands after handling chemicals and especially before you eat, drink or smoke. Protect your hands from irritation and burns, utilize gloves whenever handling chemicals.
Hand Awareness and Placement
- Each year there are thousands of disabling injuries to the hands as people place their hands in places they would not normally think of placing them. Amputations, crushing injuries and the like occur as people touch moving or rotating parts on equipment and tools. Failure to use guards, kill-switches, or to follow appropriate lock-out procedures are among the leading hand hazards.
- In many cases people are in a hurry and don’t think about the risk associated in doing such or aren’t aware of their proximity to the hazard in the first place. Every time you are near a moving piece of equipment your risk increases. It’s important to decrease that risk by not touching, leaning or in other ways coming in contact with the running machine.
- Some hand injuries occur because people don’t know they were near the hazard. If you are RIGHT handed you need to pay particular notice of the position of your LEFT hand. We are accustomed to using one hand for many tasks and we “lose track” of the position of the less dominant hand. This less dominate hand ends up leaning or touching something as we are working and that increases our risk when around equipment.
- Hand injuries account for 80 percent of all occupational injuries. This is because the hands are engaged in almost all activities on the job. Can you imagine any occupation that does not make use of the hand? Hands are so important because of their utility. They provide us with the dexterity needed to perform most daily activities. In fact, hands, as tools, are so versatile and can perform many intricate functions more than any single known tool developed by man.
- No wonder hands are highly useful on our jobs. There are many dangerous conditions on the job to which the hand is always exposed. Sharp edges, pinch points, protruding objects, splinters, exposed blades on unguarded machinery and many more. These conditions may not always be too obvious to the working person.
- Pinch points are basically traps for the hand especially. Doors may pinch your fingers if you get them caught in a jam. Paying attention and being aware of their existence helps us to avoid pinch points. We also need to take the proper precautions to avoid being pinched.
- Our hands are also subject to cuts, bruises, burns and poking. Handling sharp objects, hot objects, rough materials and splinters without the necessary hand protection are sure signs of invitation for hand injury. A necessary precaution to take is to wear approved work gloves. Not all gloves protect you from all hand injuries. Check the appropriateness of the glove for the task before using them. Precautions must still be taken to reduce the level of danger before handling very dangerous material. Lockout machinery and power before reaching into them. Check and clear doorways and aisles and make sure you have proper head clearance before you move loads through.
- Machines are guarded to avoid accidental exposure of its moving parts to the hands and parts of the body. Make sure machines are guarded at all times. Do not wear rings or wedding bands when working with machinery. Do not pick up broken glass or spilled machine parts with your bare hands. Remember your hands will obey any commands your brain sends them.