Hand Injury Statistics and Lacerations: Lessons From OSHA

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Hand Injury Statistics and Lacerations: Lessons From OSHA

If there's one thing that safety managers have plenty of in the internet age, it's data. A quick visit to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics site offers enough information to keep any number cruncher happy for hours on end.

This particular data drill down looks specifically at injuries reported in 2014 (the most recent year with complete data available). All of the injuries discussed were non-fatal and required time off work. They occurred throughout the U.S. in private industry.

Here, we compare total injuries in this category (non-fatal, required time off work, private industry) to laceration injuries with the same characteristics. Total injuries reported were 916,440 while nearly eight percent of those, or 71,100 were lacerations. An examination of their break down offers valuable insight into prevention strategies for safety managers and the insurance industry alike.

Age Matters

In general, younger workers (under 25) report fewer injuries overall, but of the injuries they do report, a higher percentage are lacerations. Workers age 16 to 19 report the largest proportion of lacerations, with 16.12 percent of total injuries for their age group. This percentage tapers as workers age. From 20 to 24 years old, 13.8 percent of total injuries in this category are due to lacerations. The number steadily declines with each age group. Workers 65 and over report the fewest percentage of lacerations, with 5.46.

Why would younger workers have fewer injuries but proportionately more lacerations? There are so many factors to account for that we can't know for sure. We could guess that younger people feel invincible and are less careful or less experienced with the tools and machinery that cause cuts. The numbers are useful, though, because they suggest that a focus on young workers is merited when it comes to lacerations. Remember, when you train them young, you've got a safe worker for life.

The Takeaway

  • Educate your young workers about laceration prevention.
  • Introduce new hires, particularly younger ones, to workplace health and safety precautions.
  • In your workplace safety training, let younger workers know they're statistically more likely to get cut.
  • Enforce safety cutters and protective gloves for potentially dangerous tasks.

Experience

One surprising trend is that the longer an employee has been with a company, the more likely he or she is to experience an injury. Employees who were with their employer for less than three months, for example, reported 98,890 injuries total. With each experience bracket, the overall injuries go up. Workers who had been at their job for more than five years reported 323,760 injuries.

What's even more fascinating is that the percentage of injuries caused by laceration has a nearly inverse trend. Employees who were at their job for less than three months had a higher proportion of lacerations, at 11.58 percent of total injuries. This proportion decreases as an employee has more experience and those who have been with their employer for more than 5 years reported only 6.29 percent of total injuries due to cuts.

The Takeaway

  • It's crucial to stress laceration safety to new hires (and not just young ones).
  • Technique, safety tools and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) should be an integral part of workplace safety training.

Hand Injury Statistics

Lacerations can occur anywhere, of course, and with any number of pieces of equipment. But the numbers are clear. When it comes to protecting different parts of the body from lacerations, hands are the most important. This is because just over 40 percent of hand injuries are lacerations. That's huge. Imagine the difference removing those injuries would make.

But how can safety managers stop those injuries? There are two main ways, and they're informed by the biggest two causes of lacerations: machinery and hand tools. Machinery (26.74 of machinery injuries are lacerations) is often specialized for your industry and therefore the best protection is safety gloves. When it comes to hand tools, a full 55.86 percent of injuries they cause are lacerations. Gloves can help here too, but innovative cutting tools designed for safety, such as ceramic safety blades, can drastically reduce injuries. So can proper hand tool safety training.

The Takeaway

  • It's unlikely that large specialized machinery has a big enough market to encourage the development of safer alternatives, so PPE is a safety manager's best friend here.
  • Safer versions of cutting hand tools reduce injuries to one of the most delicate, complex and crucial parts of a worker's body.

Hand Injury Statistics in the Workplace: One Last Tidbit

Although overall injuries go down on the weekends, laceration injuries account for a higher proportion of weekend injuries. We can speculate that workers are less likely to wear safety gloves on the weekend, but this is really just speculation.

The Takeaway

  • Emphasize cut protection to workers and supervisors on weekend shifts.

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Topics: Safety Tips, Workplace Risk

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