One thing that the thousands of factories and other facilities throughout the world have in common is the fact that there is a lot of dangerous equipment and machinery used on a daily basis. These machines have helped people improve the way we make things, but they have also brought about a lot of potential hazards. One injury that is all too common today involves than hands and fingers getting injured, and sometimes even lost.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising since hundreds of thousands of people work in facilities where they are using their hands in close proximity to sharp, heavy or otherwise dangerous equipment. Whether it is someone using a powerful saw to cut materials, or someone placing parts into a machine where there are moving parts, the hands are often within inches of danger. In some ways, it is remarkable that more people don’t have serious injuries to their hands and fingers while at work.
Types of Injuries
There are a variety of different injuries that can cause severe damage to the hands and fingers. Knowing these risks can help to avoid them while working in a dangerous facility. The following are some of the most common injuries to the hands:
- Cutting Injuries – Injuries where the fingers are actually cut off happen far too often. In some cases the fingers can be re-attached, but often they are permanently lost. This could be the entire finger, or just one digit that is cut off.
- Crush Injuries – When the fingers are in an area where a machine is crushing parts it can cause a devastating injury. The bones in the fingers are often completely destroyed, making it virtually impossible to fix. Crushed fingers often have to be amputated.
- Burn Injuries – When working with hot things like welding torches it is possible to cause severe burns to the fingers and hands.
- Chemical Burn Injuries – Working with chemicals, acids or other corrosive products can cause very serious injury which may lead to amputation of the fingers.
- Electrical Injuries – Working with electricity is dangerous for the whole body, but the shock often starts in the hands when touching a live wire. The burn can be very severe where the electricity is entering the body, which can result in lost fingers.
Preventing Accidental Hand & Finger Injury
Identifying where the risks exist in any facility, and taking steps to reduce or eliminate them is very important for any safety manager. There are many ways that employees can prevent injuries to their fingers and hands, which will help to reduce the number of people with debilitating hand problems for the rest of their life.
The following are some important points that employees should keep in mind whenever working with dangerous equipment. Employers may want to consider creating signs with the relevant tips to place near specific machines, to help keep them on the minds of those working in the area.
- Wear Protective Gloves – This one may seem obvious, but unfortunately many people don’t do it. When working with sharp tools, chemicals, or even electrical, protective gloves should always be worn. According to safety.blr.com article on Handy Tips for Hand Safety: “Regarding hand injuries specifically, one study showed that 70 percent of injured workers did not wear gloves, and the remaining 30 percent wore gloves that were inadequate, damaged, or wrong for the type of hazard being protected against.”
- Leave Extra Room – When working with a crushing machine, don’t place your hand anywhere near the crush zone of the machine. It is too easy to misjudge where your hand is, or for the machine to malfunction and cause injury.
- Don’t Test Heat with Hands – While waiting for something to cool down, never test the temperature by tapping it with your fingers. This is a bad habit people develop at home, but at work the temperatures can be so high that they cause near instant burns.
- Expect Machines to Engage – Employees should always assume that the machinery could engage at any moment. Whether it is due to a malfunction, a mistake from a co-worker, or any other reason, it is always possible that the machine will engage, so keep hands and fingers well away. Posting safety signs or safety labels help to remind employees to exercise caution when working around energized machinery.
- Always Use Safety Features – Most machines have a variety of safety options, many of which are rarely used. Employees should always engage the safety options whenever putting their hands or fingers into an area where they could be injured.
- Double Check Electric – When working on repairing a machine, double check to ensure the electricity has been disengaged. When possible, use a lock-out system where the individual working on the machine is the only one who can restore power.
- Know Where Your Hands will Go – When working with tools, it is important to understand where your hands will go if they slip. If using a hammer, for example, and your hands slip, they could continue down into a hazardous area. Understanding where the momentum will lead can help to make smarter decisions on how tools are used.
- Use the Right Tools – When using the wrong tools for a job, employees expose themselves to unexpected risks. Tools are specifically designed to perform certain tasks, and when used for other things they may break or cause injury.
- Alert Everyone of Maintenance – If someone is performing maintenance on a machine, everyone in the area should be aware of it. Placing signs at any critical point, such as the power source or control station, will help ensure nobody starts the machine up unexpectedly.
Of course, there are many other potential things that employees and employers can do to help reduce the risk of injury to the hands and fingers. Even small improvements to the overall safety of the hands can be extremely beneficial. Hand injuries can be debilitating for the employee and very costly for the employer, which is why it is so important for both groups to work together to identify risks, and take steps to prevent them.
By focusing on keeping everyone informed, it is possible to dramatically reduce the risk of serious injury to the hands and fingers of everyone who works in the facility. Take some time today to go through the facility and find where any risks might be, and see what can be done to eliminate them. In many cases, there are will be a variety of simple changes that can be made to help keep everyone’s hands safe.
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