Preventing Hand Injuries – Part 2

In my last post we discussed that OSHA is paying much greater attention to injuries to the fingers and hands.  The primary reason is that finger tip amputations, regardless of bone loss, must now be reported to OSHA within 24 hours.  OSHA has been following up and citations are being written.  In this post we will discuss prevention strategies for the three types of hand injury hazards.  This information is from the *CLMI training program “Preventing Hand Injuries”, © 2015 CLMI Safety Training. Understanding Hand Injury Hazards* The first step in understanding the potential risk of hand and finger injury is to understand the three kinds of hazards. Once these are understood and evaluated it is possible to apply a hierarchy of possible controls.

  1. Mechanical Hazards – these are situations where hands and fingers can get caught, pinched, crushed or severed in chains, rollers, gears, or other moving parts. Objects could fall on your hands. Or, your hands could get hurt while handling materials. Even hand tools can be a mechanical hazard if they are used incorrectly or are damaged.
  2. Contact Hazards – these hazards cause hands and fingers to get cut on sharp edges of tools, materials, packaging, containers or even debris from a manufacturing process. These hazards also include electrical current, chemicals, and extreme hot and cold temperatures.
  3. Personal Hazards – these hazards include wearing jewelry, loose clothing or using improper or defective personal protective equipment.

The best way to control these hazards is to apply the Hierarchy of Controls.  Conduct a risk assessment, looking at the potential severity of the hazard and the frequency of worker exposure.  Think first about eliminating the hazard.  This can be achieved by incorporating new engineered solutions and re-evaluating the safe job procedures.  Can the job be done without exposure? Next, is there a way to reduce the hazard through substitution?   Look for ways to upgrade outdated equipment or find safer methods.  Replace older, heavier and less ergonomically designed equipment or tools with better ergonomically designed models, and those that reduce force or posture hazards. Is there a way to minimize the risk by re-engineering older equipment?  In some cases the type of guarding needs to be upgraded to keep hands out of the danger zone.  Use of light curtains or two-hand trip switches would be an example. Then as we get into less effective controls, you can look at administrative controls (procedures and training) and personal protective equipment. The following are tips that you can use with employees to help understand the types of hand injury hazards and common controls.  You can also use this information to work cooperatively with your employees to identify, through risk assessment and hazard awareness, better ways of eliminating, substituting or re-engineering the job to reduce the risk of injury. Mechanical Hazards  When working with moving equipment:

  • Make sure all guards are secure and in place
  • Keep hands and fingers out of the moving parts
  • Never reach blindly into any spaces in, around, under or near the equipment
  • Follow all lockout/tagout procedures

When using portable power tools:

  • Make sure they are operating correctly and all guards are in place
  • Unplug corded tools or remove the battery from cordless tools before changing bits, blades or accessories
  • Lock out a tool to service it or send it out for service

When using hand tools:

  • Make sure you are using the correct tool for the job – no improvising
    • Select the right size and head style for screwdrivers
    • Screw drivers are not pry bars, scrapers, chisels or puncturing tools
    • Use a wood chisel for wood and a cold chisel for metal
    • Select the right type and size of wrenches and pliers for the job
    • Never use a cheater bar on a wrench
  • Look the tool over to be sure it is in good working order and not damaged in any way
    • Never use a hammer with a splintered, cracked or loose handle
    • Don’t use a chisel with a mushroomed head
    • Don’t use pliers with worn grooves or adjustable wrenches with worn or sprung jaws
    • Use penetrating oil on rusted nuts and bolts – give it time to work
  • Secure your work in a vise or a bench
    • Don’t hold it in your hand
    • Use a locking pliers when grinding, trimming or cutting small parts

When handling or moving materials and equipment:

  • Never place your hands between pieces of a load or between a load and a fixed object
  • When using a crane or hoist, keep your hands out of the place where the sling, chain or hook will tighten the load

Contact Hazards Blind reaching is a common way to injure hands. That’s reaching into, under, over, between or behind something when you can’t see where your hands will be. Blind reaches can cause your hands to:

  • Get burned on something hot or cold
  • Be cut on a sharp edge
  • Come in contact with moving parts

If you can’t see:

  • Get down on your hands and knees to look under something first
  • Use a flashlight or mirror
  • Shut down equipment and lockout to remove a guard to work on it or pick up a fallen item

Sharp tools also cause contact injuries. To prevent these injuries:

  • Keep blades on knives and tools sharp
  • Wear cut-resistant gloves
  • Use the right knife and blade for the material being cut
  • Check the path the knife will follow before starting a cut
  • Keep momentum away from your body when cutting
  • Dispose all sharps in a labeled-sharps container; not the regular trash bin

Personal Hazards  Make wise choices before you start working about what you are wearing:

  • Remove rings, watches and bracelets when working with tools, machinery or if they could get caught on anything
  • Make sure sleeves or other loose clothing can’t get caught in or on anything
  • Select the right work glove for the job and make sure they fit properly – not too tight and not too loose.
  • Inspect gloves for tears, holes and wear

Wash hands frequently to keep them safe:

  • Avoid frequent use of solvents, harsh soaps or abrasive cleansers
  • Wash hands immediately after using any chemical – even if you wore gloves
  • Get medical attention for skin rashes or irritations on your hands

For help now with solving your hand injury exposure or problems, go to the CLMI Training Library and preview one of our many Hand Injury Prevention programs. Thank you for reading, and please feel free to share this information with others.