Our hands and fingers are so integral to our daily lives that we often take them for granted. Unfortunately, many employees buy into the hand-safety myth that gloves are enough protection. Because of this, they don't always pay attention to other ways they can suffer a costly and painful finger injury that affects their work and life. Here are five effective ways—one for each finger on a hand—to drive home the message of finger safety.
Make It Personal
Beyond the obvious requirements of employees to use their hands at work, fingers are crucial to everyday life, too. To help employees recognize the real-life impacts of hand and finger injury, you may have to get personal. A presentation such as this one from the National Safety Council shows how gruesome these injuries can be and how they affect the daily functions we take for granted.
As real-life as the repercussions are, such graphic images can be jarring for some. Be sure to follow up with action-oriented steps each employee can take to avoid becoming a statistic. Speaking of which...
Know the Statistics
If some of your workers have the all-too-common "that won't happen to me" attitude about hand and finger injuries in the workplace, you need to arm yourself with the right data to enlighten them. These lessons from OSHA's hand injury statistics and lacerations, for example, illustrate how age, experience and other factors affect hand safety. Point to numbers that speak closely to the demographics of your naysayers to engage them about how likely they are to experience a finger injury if they don't follow proper safety measures.
Give Finger Injury a Face or a Phrase
When employees start to internalize any safety message, you can double down on their attention by creating a consistent reference point. This gives you and your supervisors a consistent way to deliver follow-up information. Sometimes, that means developing a fictional "don't be that guy" character, complete with backstory and consequences to avoid. Find a stock image that aligns with your key employee groups and be imaginative when integrating the story into discussions. For example, Gary Gloveless could be a seasoned employee who thinks his calloused hands are tough enough, so he doesn't bother with safety gloves while using machinery—until a chemical burn from a ruptured hose disables him. Create posters with Gary's face on them alongside brief bullet points reminding your staff how to avoid his fate. Of course, be aware of stereotyping, and always keep the HR department apprised of these types of campaigns.
Depending on the personality of your workforce, you may want to try catch phrases instead to call attention to common dangers. Have fun with it. "Don't Give the Machine the Finger (Literally)" is memorable and uses humor instead of fear, while "Don't Hand Me No Lines and Keep Your Hands to Yourself" invokes the power of music to remind country-loving employees to follow procedures.
Get Creative with Repetition
You have a lot to cover from a safety perspective. Still, hand and finger injuries are some of the most prevalent in the workplace, so they deserve regular attention.
Don't have time to talk to your staff about their hands all the time? Try adding passive reminders to your year-long communications strategy. Change them frequently so they don't become background noise to employees. For example, install a monitor in the break room and play videos, such as the one below, on a loop. Long-form safety videos, in particular, let you promote safety as people get their coffee or heat their lunches without you having to gather staff each time you need to deliver the message.
Promote Reporting Seemingly Minor Hand and Finger Injuries
Employees sometimes overlook what seems like an inconvenience but could, in fact, be a serious injury. Fingernails, for example, suffer more overall injuries than any other part of the finger, according to eMedicineHealth. Yet, employees may fail to report a smashed fingernail and work through the resulting discomfort. Remind employees that no injury is small. A crushed fingernail can also hide a broken bone beneath it, just as an untreated tiny cut between fingers can get infected and create major issues.
Finger injury prevention eliminates one of the most common work-site complaints, and its ramifications extend well beyond the work floor. Take the time to educate and remind your employees regularly of just how important their hands are to their life as well as their livelihood.