Preventing hand injuries in the workplace should be a top priority. Lacerations and worse are too common, but also largely avoidable.
Consider, if an employee suffers a deep cut or severs a finger, he or she loses more than the ability to work. That person also loses the ability to comfortably perform everyday tasks such as tying shoelaces, using utensils, or typing on a computer.
Hand tool injuries are difficult to mend due to the complex structure of hands. Following an injury, the hand may never regain full function, leading to loss of mobility, dexterity, and grip.
Hand injuries are also a major liability for employers. Direct and indirect costs abound. Among them are worker compensation, medical bills, workflow disruption, and lowered employee morale.
Assess and Mitigate Hand Injury Risks in the Workplace
Central to hand injury prevention is identifying and assessing hazards. It is important to do this regularly as workplaces change and new hand safety hazards may arise.
There are many ways to identify risks. Look back through your injury reports. Pay extra attention to situations where workers have injured their hands in the past.
Ask your workforce for feedback about where they see hazards that can be reduced or removed. Consult others in your industry as well as articles and reports about both common and industry-specific hand safety risks.
To rate your workplace risks, use a risk assessment table and categorize each one as low, moderate, high, or extreme. Then take the necessary actions to eliminate or reduce the risk. While greater attention should be given to higher risk hazards, address even the smallest risk factors.
Conduct Regular Staff Training on Hand Injury Prevention
Schedule monthly hand protection safety talks and more frequent but short protocol reminders to keep hand safety at the forefront of worker’s minds.
Allocate different staff members to run training sessions or otherwise contribute to safety memos. This is a good way to engage your workforce; it’s empowering to teach others and it feels good to contribute to the betterment of your environment. This also ensures that those recruited teachers know the safety information well and can help enforce it during regular work hours.
Effective hand protection training should resonate with your employees. Don’t hesitate to emphasize the seriousness of the dangers your employees face. Shock value helps drive home the serious consequences of not adhering to proper safety protocols.
A presentation from the National Safety Council suggests hand injury role play as a training tool: have employees tape two fingers down on their dominant hand and then try to perform everyday tasks like buttoning their shirt or tying their shoelaces.
Videos, first-person anecdotes, and hands-on training are other effective teaching methods. This short video provides four basic principles on hand injury prevention in the workplace:
Everyone learns differently, so use a variety of training techniques to get messages across to all employees.
Provide Quality Tools and Safety Gear
Ensure your workers have adequate, high quality, reliable tools. Look for comfortable, ergonomically designed tools that reduce tendon and muscle strain.
Well designed tools also reduce hand injuries because they require less effort on the part of the user. Excessive force can result in slips, leading to possible injury. Also make sure each worker has appropriate safety gear that fits.
Regularly inspect all tools and machines that pose a hand safety hazard. Immediately replace any tools or safety gear in poor working order. Enforce a no-tolerance policy regarding employees using worn or ill-functioning equipment, not wearing all protective gear, or not complying with protocols.
Cross-Train Your Employees
Even after performing adequate workplace hazard assessments, sufficiently training your employees on safety for their hands, and providing everyone with quality equipment, hand and finger injuries in the workplace may happen due to human error. Common contributors to this are the following:
Avoid this pitfall by keeping workers engaged and alert. Train them to do a number of tasks and rotate them to different duties throughout the day.
Not only will this help keep boredom at bay, different tasks require different movement patterns and muscles. This will reduce repetitive strain injuries and fatigue.
Healthy hands are needed for just about every job. This thorough approach to preventing hand injuries is a must in any workplace.