When you’re teaching workplace hand health, it’s vital to cover a variety of hand injury safety topics. Switching focus keeps workers engaged, and helps your messages stick, while, over time, giving them a deeper understanding of the theme of hand health.
If you bombard workers with the same laundry list of ways to keep hands injury free each time you talk about hand safety, they’ll start to tune out. If you approach hand safety one topic at a time, you’ll be able to really develop your topics and have more success.
Why Have Toolbox Talks About Hands, Anyway?
An effective way to establish a strong safety culture is to implement frequent toolbox talks. These short, regular, and informal spotlights on safety are a great way to heighten awareness about well-being without burning out your audience.
There aren’t any pop quizzes or paperwork; these quick safety huddles are a way to emphasize that safety should be everyone’s top priority and review safety tips. Toolbox talks are a great way to start the day or a shift, or you can use them as a way to boost awareness while everyone takes a breather in the middle of a long workday.
But why focus on hands? Because, frankly, without healthy hands, most people can’t work—at least not to their full capacity. And, hand injuries are expensive. A 2018 article in Occupational Health & Safety states: “In 2011, the National Safety Council (USA) estimated the cost of hand injuries ... The direct cost of a laceration can be $10,000, stitches are often $2,000, and a severed tendon can be more than $70,000.”
Thankfully, hand injuries are generally easy to prevent. Being prepared, educated, and aware—that’s more than half the battle. So let’s get on with it: five effective topics for your toolbox talks full of hand safety tips.
Unquestionably, a critical component in hand injury prevention is PPE—namely, gloves. But, of course, you can’t just use any gloves. They have to be the right gloves. Here are a few considerations when choosing gloves:
- Do they fit?
- Do they protect against the particular hazard you’re exposed to?
- Are they in good condition?
- Do they allow your hands and fingers to move freely?
Gloves that don’t fit well, restrict movement, or are in poor condition may cause more problems than they solve. Your gloves should, well, fit like a glove. They should feel, as best they can, like a second skin.
If your gloves aren’t protecting against the hazard you’re facing, you aren’t protected. It’s that simple. If you’re looking for gloves to protect against lacerations, it’s important to know the different levels of glove cut-resistance, and make sure you choose the right one.
When most people talk about fitness, they generally aren’t referring to their hands. But hand fitness is an important aspect of keeping hands healthy and injury-free. In the modern world, it’s easy to lose hand strength and flexibility. This can make you more prone to overuse injuries and fatigue, and compromise your grip strength.
Practice regular hand strengthening and hand stretching exercises. Incorporate hand strength training into your regular workout routines. Give your hands frequent breaks during the day with some quick stretches—you may be surprised by how good they feel—and do some deeper stretches a few times a week.
In addition to making sure you keep your hands fit and nimble, also make sure to give them a little love, especially if you work with your hands a lot. Hangnails and chapped, cracked skin are painful, and they’re common. While these are rarely work-ending issues, it’s always preferable to avoid pain and injuries, however small.
Apply lotion or cream to dry hands. For particularly dry, cracked skin, be generous when applying cream and cover with a pair of gloves. Get the occasional hand massage and manicure. No one can deny it: they just feel good.
Hand Placement Awareness
Many hand injuries are a result of putting your hands where they shouldn’t go. This usually happens when we simply stop paying attention. Encourage workers to pause a moment before placing their hands on or in anything. Is the surface or space safe? Can you see your hands and where they’re going?
This is a key consideration if you’re reaching overhead or into a poorly lit or tight area. It also applies to situations when you’re carrying a large object. Maintaining awareness—that is, avoiding distractions and staying alert—goes a long way in keeping your hands safe.
Employ Good Ergonomics
In addition to keeping your hands in good shape to avoid overuse injuries and fatigue, pay attention to ergonomics. Ergonomics addresses how you move in your environment. It concerns how you interact with equipment and furniture, how you hold and use tools, and how you interface with machinery.
You should always move, sit, or stand in ways that feel natural and comfortable. The tools or equipment you use should feel like extensions of your body. This short video gives a brief overview of ergonomics and why it’s important, as well as some tips to employ good ergonomics. It’s aimed at the construction industry, but the information is applicable to most work situations:
It’s easy and useful to present frequent hand safety toolbox talks. These five focal points are a good place to start.
Another approach to addressing hand safety in toolbox talks is to consider the dangers your hands face. Slice makes this easy, too, with our ready-made hand safety toolbox talk guide. Armed with these hand safety injury topics, you’ll keep your workers engaged and safe.