Last week we looked at some simple tactics to prevent eye injury. In this week’s final installment of this three part series on preventing injury, we will tackle hand injuries and ways you can significantly decrease the number of incidents. Click on the following links to access the last two week’s installment. Easy Ways to Stop Slips, Trips, and Falls, and Simple Solution to Serious Eye Injuries.
Eliminating hand injuries such as lacerations can be tough. Lacerations are the most common hand injury occurring in the workplace today, and one of the toughest to prevent. However, there are several easy ways to decrease the injuries that would otherwise occur. You might say to yourself, “Some injury is unavoidable. In order for technicians to do their job they must get their hands around sharp parts, up into an engine component, or covered in grease and oil. Exposure to some injury is just part of the job.” And yes, you’re right. Some injury is most likely unavoidable, but the instances can be decreased. Also, part of the job includes making sure those technicians are protecting their hands as much as possible. After all, let’s face it, those hands can be extreme money makers or extreme money losses.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2013, 13% of full-time employees received a hand injury that resulted in an average of 6 days away from work (Labor). Six days lost is six days of production loss. So, let’s take a look at some ideas on how to keep those hands working.
Assess the Hazards
An important first step is to walk through the shop and identify where the hazards exist. Next, talk with the employees in the shop and identify the areas where abrasions are a concern. One of the greatest causes of these types of injuries is the force a technician must put behind a tool to get the job done. An example of this is when a technician has to apply force to a screw driver or a pry bar. The tool slips and the force applied causes the hand to contact metal which causes the “busted knuckle.” These types of injuries can be very difficult to eliminate, but again they can certainly be decreased. Force is one hazard, another could be contamination exposure. Are your technicians using parts washer solvent to wash their hands? Solvent gets the hands cleaned quickly, but it also causes defatting and dermatitis. Assess the chemicals being used in the shop which are potential skin hazards. Attempt to find a substitute that would be safer for skin contact.
How Do We Eliminate the Force?
As I mentioned in the example above, typical hand injuries occur when a component of a vehicle and a technician’s hand tool intersect. The engine components are what they are; they are there to be fixed. So let’s examine the technician’s hand tools:
- Are the tools up to date?
- What is the condition of the hand tools?
- Are they using dull drill bits where more force is needed?
- Are the technicians using old worn wrenches when a ratchet gun or drill with a hex bit extension could be used?
- Is there a motorized tool we do not have in our shop that could substitute for a pry bar?
- Are we using the cutting devices with guards?
- Are the technicians covering sharp engine parts if possible?
- Use shipping Styrofoam as a buffer between the hand and sharp part.
- Do all blades have guards? Including small razor blades?
A complete and comprehensive EHS policy should be written much the same as most other procedures. Use the guidelines below to direct you:
- Where and when must hand protection be used?
- No one is exempt from this policy.
- The only way any policy works is if it is approved and implemented by top level management. Even the President/CEO must be wearing PPE.
- Hand protection can be obtained from where?
- Provide boxes of gloves near required use zones
- Will inspections be conducted for hand protection use?
- How about availability and condition?
- Will there be discipline for not wearing the gloves?
- Will there be positive incentives for wearing gloves?
- What are the procedures for a hand injury?
- Where is the first aid kit?
- How do you apply a dressing?
- Injury reporting procedures?
When it comes to PPE, gloves have come a long way over the past 10 years. There are now cut resistant levels for gloves, which will help in decreasing the chance for a laceration. Cut resistant gloves range from levels 1-5. Level 2 gloves are appropriate for a service shop, but keep in mind that comfortable thin gloves will be used more often than the big bulky cheap ones found at the hardware store.
A shop will need to have a variety of gloves on hand for different situations such as:
- Latex/Nitrile – oils and grease use (some people have latex skin allergies).
- PVC/Rubber Butyl Gloves – solvent and corrosives use.
- Welding gloves – hot work use.
- Cut resistant gloves – sharps handling.
- Electricians gloves – hybrid battery use.
These gloves should be available for employee use in different sizes.
When making decisions regarding glove wear, this also should trigger your thought process in other types of extremities protection. Those might include:
- Welding sleeves
- Welding jackets
- Chemical aprons
- Tyvek suits
Present and communicate your new policies to your employees. Inform them of how they will be measured on performance and give them a chance to voice their concerns. Take the time to go over the serious concerns of hand injuries and let your employees share stories about past incidents if they feel comfortable. Participation and testimonials will help you and your personnel retain more of the information and make for a comfortable environment. “A person will retain 50% of what they see and hear but they will retain about 80% of what they do.” –Michelen T.H. Chi. A good training exercise is to blindfold a few willing individuals and ask them to do simple tasks. If a person is right handed, ask them to write their name using his/her left hand. Or, ask a person to sweep a floor with one arm/hand only. This helps to get that, “this could be the rest of your life” point across.
Some of these injury preventative measures in this three part series you might find mundane, but it has been clearly illustrated how costly neglecting these simple tactics can be. Whether your business most frequently sees hand, eye, or back injuries, there is are simple solution that will decrease the number of instances. Protect your future now and take action. Don’t look back in a year and wish you would have taken precautions. Simple neglect leads to serious injury. Don’t let yourself become a casualty of laziness and adhere to the precautions today.
To see the first section of this thee part series click the following link. Easy Ways to Stop Slips, Trips, and Falls.
KPA offers comprehensive facility audit services, online safety training courses, accident tracking and management software, and even employee recognition programs.
For further information on how you can implement more safety strategies in your location, please contact your KPA representative or email [email protected]
-Zach Pucillo, CSP, CHMM