When it comes to reviewing employee safety at workplace meetings, you need to pay special attention to minimizing the risk of hand injuries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014, upper body injuries or illnesses involved over 346,000 incidents, and of these cases, 40 percent involved the hands. The high incidence of hand injuries is a major concern, as serious hand injuries may lead to the loss of one or more fingers or permanent loss of dexterity. In many instances, employees who have had serious hand injuries are no longer able to return to work in their previous positions.

What Is Safety at Workplace Sites All About?

The provision of a safe workplace is a fundamental right. Employers have a duty to respect workers rights, provide the right safety equipment, to ensure workers have proper training, and to insist on safe working practices. Employees also have the responsibility to act in a safe manner, to work safely, and to protect themselves from injuries.

When discussing how to improve safety at workplace locations, it's important to take into consideration the following:

  • Potential hazards: Identify pinch points and other places where employees' fingers and hands suffer injuries
  • Appropriate safety equipment: Provide employees with the right equipment to keep their hands safe, such as cut- and abrasion-resistant gloves and/or safety knives
  • Use of the correct tools: Provide the right tools for the job
  • Training: Make certain employees receive adequate safety training

Hands Are Vulnerable

Human hands are amazing pieces of biological engineering. They are strong, yet able to perform intricate tasks requiring great dexterity. They do this through an incredible combination of muscles, ligaments, joints, and nerves that all work together. However, hands can also easily endure injuries. Muscles and ligaments can suffer serious cuts, bones can break, and nerves can experience damage.

To ensure safety at work, managers need to coach their workers to protect their hands from injury at all times through a combination of common sense, safe working practices, and the use of the correct safety equipment.

Identifying Potential Safety Hazards

Employers should evaluate and identify workplace safety issues. These include the identification of potential pinch points on machinery that could trap or crush workers' hands or fingers, as well as the risk associated with rotating and moving equipment. Be sure to install suitable machine guards and safety interlocks so staff can't operate machinery while their hands are vulnerable.

Additionally, where it's necessary that employees' hands be in close proximity to dangerous machinery, supply suitable hand protection. Other risks to consider include situations where hands have exposure to dangerous chemicals, where they handle hot or cold equipment, and when processing rough and abrasive materials. And, of course, lacerations are a major cause of hand injuries. Any tool that is sharp enough to cut skin must be considered a potential hazard.

Employees also have a duty of care. But it's difficult for them to fully understand that duty without sufficient training in safety awareness. This helps ensure that they are mindful of the potential for hand injuries during their daily work tasks. Teach them to perform their tasks safely.

Importance of Using Protective Equipment

Apart from ensuring that machinery and equipment have safety guards, further consider workplace health and safety by providing your employees with appropriate protective equipment that they must wear whenever performing tasks that could be dangerous. Examples include cut-resistant gloves when using saws and other cutting equipment, heat- and fire-resistant gloves for welding, and protective gloves for handling abrasive equipment. Other PPE includes safety helmets, safety boots, and protective clothing.

Safety Gloves With a Utility Knife

Choosing the Correct Tools

A key factor in workplace safety is the use of the correct tools. Provide staff with the most appropriate tools for their work tasks. For instance, cutting tasks should be evaluated according to the depth of cut required and the material you're cutting. This allows you to choose the best safety knife for the job. When lifting heavy equipment, workers should use properly rated lifting devices and employees need thorough training on their use.

Coach employees to maintain tools and keep equipment in safe working condition. Train them to keep wrenches and spanners in good repair without worn edges, and to properly sharpen chisels and screwdrivers.

Training for Safe Working Practices

During safety meetings, remind workers of the importance of safe working practices. When appointing staff, managers have a responsibility to select experienced employees, or if employing untrained workers, to provide them with adequate training. Show employees how to work safely with their hands and make them aware of the basic safe work practices when using knives on the job, as demonstrated by this video.

Your job is to provide the right equipment and training, while your staff members need to be careful, anticipate what might happen, and always work safely. Ultimately, employees' hand safety at workplace sites depends on both managers and their employees working together to create a safe working environment.