When employees think about hand safety on the work floor, they pay the most attention to big accidents. Losing a finger or getting their hand stuck in a machine does sound awful, but these mishaps are not nearly as common as the small, everyday injuries that can sideline a worker for weeks. In fact, hands are often involved in the three most common workplace injuries. Use these seven hand safety tips to remind your employees how comparatively minor injuries to the hands from cuts and punctures, falls and repetitive-use issues can add up to lost work time—not to mention frustrations in the rest of their lives.
Hand Tool Safety Tips: Push the Common Sense Message
Many cuts, lacerations and punctures come not from big machinery but from mishandling simple hand tools or moving too fast between tasks without considering how to stay safe. In addition to providing them with a handy guide for hand tool safety, sharing tips like these reminds employees to pay attention to how everyday actions can prevent irritating injuries.
1. Wear Proper Gloves, Even While Using Hand Tools
Everyone knows this, and you'd think by now they'd all remember. But, according to OSHA, 70 percent of people who had hand injuries weren't wearing gloves, which means the message bears repeating. For instance, some employees may find gloves cumbersome while using hand tools. The right gloves allow for dexterity and solve their handling needs.
2. Use the Right Tools the Right Way
Box cutters, for example, are notorious for cutting hands when people leave the blades open or extend them too far. Likewise, screwdrivers make terrible box cutters. Encourage employees to choose safety over what they might deem as efficiency, because nobody is efficient from the emergency room. These OSHA hand safety tips include guidelines for using tools correctly and choosing the right one for the work at hand (get it?).
3. Clean Up Correctly
Maybe it stems from brushing away eraser shavings in school, but many of us use our bare hands to sweep away dust, shavings and other debris. Make sure employees use a broom or sweeper to get rid of detritus in their work area. This avoids cuts and splinters that can lead to infection.
Catch Me, I'm Falling
Usually, we associate slips and falls with spinal injuries, back pain or broken bones. But falling incorrectly can lead to sprained wrists and other complications that make working with the hands difficult. These hand safety tips extend to safeguarding against shoulder and other arm injuries, too.
4. Learn How to Fall
Trips and falls tend to propel people forward. Natural instinct tries to break a fall like that with the hands, which can harm wrists and tear a rotator cuff in the process. Just like when we were younger and learned to roll through a fall, sometimes employees need a safe way to learn to fall down. Consider bringing in a doctor or physical therapist to train your employees in safe falls. This practice triggers natural muscle memory so that future tumbles protect delicate hands.
5. Avoid Slips and Falls
The best way to stop falling-related injuries is to prevent falling in the first place. This requires vigilance from employees, from how they maintain their work spaces to the attention they pay to their surroundings on the floor. Frequent check-ins from supervisors can help. Staff holding each other accountable is even better, thanks to the power of peer influence. Videos jump-start such conversations. This teaser for a long-format video about general workplace trips, slips and falls offers one of hundreds of options for you to purchase media for your safety collection.
Play It Again, Sam: Repetitive Use Injuries
Although some people relate repetitive stress issues to office work, line workers are also susceptible to repetitive-use or cumulative-trauma injuries. Carpal tunnel syndrome and Raynaud's syndrome are two common hand issues that arise from repeating the same motions over and over throughout the day. This primer about cumulative trauma in manufacturing explains the various safety risks in more detail, but here are a few hand safety tips that focus on avoiding the everyday actions that trigger repetitive-use pain.
6. Take a Break
Everyone wants to do a good job, and output is always important. But employees need frequent rest moments to stretch and bend in different directions. Work with managers to develop a way for workers to pause and take care of their bodies without affecting down-line activities too much.
7. Location, Location, Location
Each workstation needs its own ergonomic layout that is effective for the height, weight and flexibility of the person using it. The placement of tools and levers for a six-foot-tall, burly man, for example, would mean lots of extra reaching and odd angles for a slender, five-foot-six guy. Similarly, asking that burly man to maneuver effectively in a tight space that a smaller person occupies on another shift is a surefire way for him to develop hand, neck and back troubles. Work with a human factors expert to customize your work spaces.
Once you prompt employees with these little hand safety tips, most remember to pay attention to the details that keep them safe. Keep reminding them. Their future, and the company's, is in their hands.