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Hand Protection at work is more than a single paragraph in your Safety Program

The hand injuries that employers need to guard against in the workplace, according to

OH&S, are: • Burns • Bruises • Abrasions • Cuts • Punctures • Fractures • Amputations • Chemical Exposures

In your HAND Protection program at your workplace do you cover simple things like: Job Hazard Analysis – method to evaluate common hazards in the work environment. The main activities involved with each job title are listed and a sequence of tasks is developed along with each associated hazard and control.

Hand Protection – personal protective equipment (gloves, mitts, etc.) or barrier creams used to protect hands from harm.

Chemical Resistant Gloves – gloves that provide an effective barrier against specific chemicals. An appropriate chemical resistant glove must demonstrate no significant degradation, a high breakdown time, and low permeation rate upon contact with the chemicals used.

Non Conductive Gloves – gloves that protect against transmission of electricity.

Non Permeable Gloves – gloves that protect against a specific hazard moving through material. No glove is non permeable for all substances.

Or GHS questions like, Permeation Rate – the rate at which the chemical will move through the material. It is measured in a laboratory and is expressed in units like milligrams per square meter per second (or some other [weight of chemical] per [unit areas of material] per [unit of time]). The higher the permeation rate, the faster the chemical will move through the material. Permeation is different from penetration. Penetration occurs when the chemical leaks through seams, pinholes and other imperfections in the material; permeation occurs when the chemical diffuses or travels through intact material.

What about Reusable Gloves – only gloves that are not used to protect from chemicals such as those that protect from cuts, electric shock, and cold are considered reusable.

  • The average penalty for failing to prevent a workplace hand injury is $5,000.
  • The average worker’s compensation claim for a hand injury is $4,000.
  • The indirect costs of a workplace hand injury are three times that of the direct costs.
  • The average hand injury results in five days off of work.
  • There are more than 100,000 lost-time workplace hand injuries each year.
  • More than 500,000 employees are sent to the emergency room annually for hand injuries.
  • Level 1 is the highest level of protection available in cut-resistant gloves.
  • 50% of workers weren’t wearing gloves at the time of their injuries.
  • You can expect a return of $3 for every $1 invested in effective workplace safety programs.

Think of your hands as …Valuable

Your hands are superbly designed tools of amazing strength and dexterity. They can pinch, grasp, twist, lift, hold and manipulate while doing a wide variety of other specific tasks.

Vulnerable

Your hands and wrists are a complex system of bones, muscles and tendons, ligaments, blood vessels and nerves protected by layers of skin. A total of 27 hand and wrist bones are connected to the muscles by tendons. Ligaments join bones together and hold the joints in place. Blood vessels supply nourishment to all these parts. Nerves convey sensations and help to control hand and finger movements.

The skin provides a barrier against chemicals, heat and cold. Skin on the back of the hand is thin and elastic and, on the palm, it is thick to provide traction, cushioning and insulation.

Remember! Your hands are valuable but also vulnerable! If even a small cut makes it difficult and painful to work or play, imagine if you had a serious injury.

Workplace hazards and injury prevention

A hazard is any energy that can cause harm. Injuries can be immediate or may happen over time. In the workplace, your hands are subjected to many hazards.

Mechanical hazards

There are numerous mechanical hazards from tools, equipment, machines, structures and vehicles:

  • chains, gears, rollers, wheels and transmission belts;
  • spiked or jagged tools;
  • edges that catch and tear;
  • cutting, chopping and grinding mechanisms;
  • cutting tools such as knives and presses;
  • falling objects, etc.


A few prevention tips

  • Work at your own pace. The frequency of hand injuries is proportional to how quickly you work.
  • Stay alert! Always watch what your hands are doing.
  • Use a push stick to feed a circular saw or other power tools such as jointers and shapers.
  • Know how to handle the tools and equipment you work with. Don’t take shortcuts.
  • Wrenches should properly fit nuts and bolts.
  • Use long magnetic poles for retrieving items from places where it is dangerous for hands to go.
  • Presses and other machines should be designed to keep hands away from the work area.
  • Control panels should be designed, installed and guarded to reduce the risk of accidents as much as possible.
  • Use different colours, shapes or sizes to distinguish safety shut-off controls from all other controls.
  • Never start repair work on power tools or machinery without first checking that the power is shut off and the machine is locked out.
  • If you are taking any drugs or medication, consult your doctor. Some drugs and medication impair your faculties, prevent you from thinking clearly and slow your reflexes.

So when you think risk assessment and hand protection are you covering all the bases in you worksites!

PORTABLE WORKING TOOLS

Use the right tool for every task and never for any task it wasn’t made for.

  • Handing another a tool, always present it handle first.
  • Do not use a cutter towards the direction of your hands.
  • Never catch a cutting edge tool or heavy work tool falling down.

CHEMICAL OR THERMAL BURNS 

  • Wear appropriate gloves when dealing with chemicals
  • Avoid skin contact with greasy and oily products
  • Heat and cool can cause burns to your hands: wear protective gloves
  • In case of a burn (chemical or thermal), rinse immediately with cold water and seek first-aid

WEAR THE APPROPRIATE GLOVES 

  • Use protective gloves when working with tools
  • Wear proper gloves for every type of job
  • Use gloves that fit and that are suitable for the ambient temperature
  • A damaged glove is danger, throw it away

PREVENT INFECTIONS

  • Disinfect cuts and scratches to prevent infections
  • Protect wounds & wear gloves to prevent injuries from infection
  • Be alert to symptoms of injuries that are not clearly visible
  • When in any doubt, always call a doctor for guidance

ROTATING MACHINERY

  • Working near rotating elements, be careful of your movements
  • Check safety systems and emergency buttons before operating
  • Never turn off machine’s security systems, they are there to protect you
  • Engage security shutdown system before putting your hands inside

ELECTRIC RISKS 

  • Ensure power is off before taking cables or bare conductors with bare hands
  • Never wear jewelries that could prime an arc or electric current

IMMOBILIZED WORKING TOOLS

  • Avoid injuries, use the proper working tools
  • Familiarize yourself with tools and equipment
  • Only use tools perfectly adapted for each job
  • Always use the machine protection devices

PINCHING & CRUSHING 

  • Never leave your hands on a trunk’s edge (switch box, safety panel, tool box…)
    without securing the opening system
  • Never leave your hands in a door frame, car door, cupboard or drawer

WORKING METHODS 

  • Secure objects in a vice for cutting, piercing or grinding
  • When operating machines on a work bench, secure them
  • Only use wrenches that perfectly fit the screw nuts & bolt heads
  • Do not wear rings, watches & bracelets at work

HYGIENE 

Always thoroughly wash your hands:

  • after going to the bathroom, smoking, a break
  • before eating, going home or putting your gloves on


This could be your risk assessment to  Selection of Hand Protection

And did you think about these items when talking with crews

Raynaud’s Syndrome

Raynaud’s syndrome or “white finger” is caused by the vibrations your hands and fingers are subjected to when you work with electric or pneumatic tools. The skin, muscles and other tissues cannot get needed oxygen because of damage to the blood vessels of the hand. The result is a loss of sensation and control; there may be blanching and numbness of the affected areas and you may notice a decreased sensitivity to heat, cold and pain.

All of these problems can seriously interfere with your regular work and recreational activities. If you operate a chain saw, air hammer, air chisel, jack hammer or any other vibration tool, you must be extremely careful.

A few prevention tips

  • Eliminate or reduce vibrations by using anti-vibration mounting or other engineering measures.
  • Regular maintenance of your tools is very important because they will vibrate less when in good operating condition.
  • Find ways to do the job using a different tool or by changing your grip, wrist position or hand movement. Think about how to perform each movement in the simplest way possible and vary tasks to rest your hands.
  • Keep hands warm and dry. Cold causes blood vessels to contract, reducing the amount of oxygen carried to the hands by the blood.
  • If you smoke, try to stop. Nicotine constricts the blood vessels, decreasing the oxygen supply to the tissues of your hands.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome results from pinching of the median nerve that runs through the carpal tunnel in the wrist. This syndrome is often found in people who work with their wrist bent or twisted, especially when using force. Assemblers, textile workers, computer keyboard users, painters and food processing workers are among those most affected.

The initial symptoms are numbness, tingling, burning, pain and loss of strength. Symptoms are often more acute at night and felt on only one side of the hand, the side of the index finger and thumb.

Tenosynovitis

Tenosynovitis (tendinitis, synovitis, bursitis, trigger finger, de Quervain’s disease) is an inflammation of the tendons and tendon-muscle attachments. It is caused by overuse of the hand and arm muscles, especially during rapid, forceful and repetitive movements and excessive arm extension.

The areas of the hand where pain occurs are generally the base of the palm, the palm side of the fingers, the back of the wrist, and the side of the wrist near the palm.

A few prevention tips

  • Be aware of the positions and movements of your hands and wrists as you work. Try to alternate or change your movements to reduce repetition and strain.
  • Rotate functions and vary tasks.
  • Plan the work and work area to suit yourself rather than the machine.
  • Tools should be light and balanced, and be the right size for you.
  • Tool handles should be bent so that the wrist stays in a comfortable, natural position.
  • Whenever possible, work with your forearms close to your body and supported.
  • Doctors may advise wrist supports to prevent twisting injuries.

Support and work with your employer and your health and safety committee or representative to implement an effective hand protection program.

It takes:

  • team effort;
  • safety training;
  • observance of safety rules and proper work practices;
  • first aid training;
  • hazard recognition;
  • safe tools and equipment;
  • adequate hand protection; and
  • a safe work place.

When someone is injured, treatment must be rendered promptly in order to increase the chances of a full recovery.

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