As you're developing your workplace safety checklists, you probably look at statistics to help you decide where to focus your efforts. Common issues deserve extra attention, and hand injuries are among the most common in almost any work environment. But they're also easy to overlook. Reiterating hand injury prevention techniques so often can feel like overkill, partly because the concepts seem like common sense. Besides, you have a limited budget for your safety materials, and you need to cover a lot of issues.
Unfortunately, choosing not to invest in a hand injury prevention campaign can cost both your company and your employees dearly. Here's how.
Hand Injury Prevention Saves Your Company Money (LOTS of Money)
It's easy to have a vague idea of how much a hand injury costs your company, at least from an insurance or worker's compensation perspective. When you start adding up the ancillary costs, though, the cost of skimping on preventing hand injuries in the workplace skyrockets. The cost of a knife injury, for example, once you consider surrounding factors like medical attention and lost work time, can top $50,000.
As you're deciding what to emphasize in your safety program, try this cost calculator from OSHA. The direct and indirect costs, on top of the sales your company has to produce to cover these costs, is eye-opening.
For instance, carpal tunnel syndrome is a common problem on the work floor. The direct costs related to carpal tunnel are about $30,000, with another $33,000 in indirect costs for which your company is responsible. Indirect costs may include accident investigation, repairs to machinery, lost productivity and other expenses outside medical and rehabilitation. Assuming a conservative three-percent return, your company has to sell $1.1 million in product to cover the direct costs and $2.1 million to offset the entire cost of just one injury.
When you consider that hand injuries are among the three most common in the workplace, hand and finger injury prevention makes fiscal sense. When you consider the human on the other end of the injury, however, a comprehensive safety program becomes paramount.
Beyond the Bottom Line: A Person's Livelihood Is at Stake
For a company, losing a trained, productive employee to a hand issue is a measurable expense. But that employee can lose so much more than immediate earning power. His livelihood depends on his safety at work, as does how much he enjoys his home life. And it's your job to emphasize hand injury prevention in a way that gets through to him.
We use our hands so often that we take them for granted. According to a Yale study, a machinist changes hand grip types 2,000 times in just a four-hour period on the job. That doesn't even account for what he's doing off the work floor. When employees move that much during a shift, maintaining vigilant safety protocols can be tricky. To encourage compliance with safety rules, you may need to make a personal connection.
If you have a willing employee who was unfortunate enough to already go through a hand injury, his story can resonate with other employees. Make sure to work with your company's attorney to get the proper permissions to share the employee's health information, of course. If not, get creative with your sources and try a YouTube video of someone sharing a cautionary tale. Here's one from the construction industry that talks about how skipping gloves changed a man's life.
When linking the prevention of hand injuries to real-life consequences, a story such Daniel's has more impact than any PowerPoint presentation. For a story that hits home, look for an emotional tie. In this video, the man's home life changed, but that wasn't it. He realized just how different the rest of his working life would be just because he didn't wear proper safety gear. For some of your staff, the idea of not interacting with family the same way or being unable to enjoy playing a sport may be the message that resonates. Think about your team's demographics, and choose the warnings that impact their personal and professional lives the most.
Remember, for your employees, safety extends beyond the work floor. While it's not your responsibility to encourage safety at home, sometimes working in hand injury prevention tips from the outside world bridges the gap between work and home life. Try these guidelines from WebMD as a start.
Once you recognize the monetary and emotional impacts of a hand injury, prevention becomes a valuable effort. Don't wait until your company and an employee both pay the price before you institute a large-scale campaign.