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The food manufacturing industry has some of the highest risk of hand injury and amputation. A Bureau of Labor Statistics study in 2012 showed that injuries in the food industry resulted in some of the longest periods of time away from work. The major goal of every company in the food industry should be to provide solutions to employees that reduce hand injuries — recordable and non-recordable.
Here are some tips to reduce hand injuries in food manufacturing.
Creating safe procedures that reduce the risk to workers should always be the first course of action. Part of that means choosing the right glove for the job.
There isn’t a single glove for every job — that would be too easy. The steps you should take when selecting a glove for the food industry is:
According to the National Safety Council, the average hand injury claim exceeds $6,000 and with close to one million workers being sent to the emergency room each year, they are a common and expensive occurrence.
To identify the risks in your own plant:
If you need help with this type of assessment, or simply don’t know where to start, you can always solicit some help. Superior Glove offers a Superior Advantage Program (which is free) to help you through this process.
A great way to reduce risky behavior is addressing your workplace safety culture. Understanding how your company views safety can help you determine how employees feel about safety concerns. It also gives the employees accountability to identify hazards before an accident occurs.
The success of a company for preventing hand injuries is largely reliant on the management’s commitment to safety. Commitment to safety from management can trickle down into workers, which in turn can create a healthy and safe work environment. Give workers chances for open dialogue and collaboration opportunities for the best results.
One of the most common hand injuries is carpal tunnel syndrome which is an injury often caused by overexertion and improper positioning of the hand. The injury is characterized by swelling and entrapment of the median nerve in the wrist. A BLS study showed that repetitive injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, resulted in the longest absences from work.
The chance of injury is greater when repetitive jobs are done in forceful or awkward positions. For example, a worker who has to grip and squeeze a food product dispenser throughout an entire shift most likely will not have the chance to put down the dispenser and is more likely to suffer an injury.
Hiring an occupational therapist to visit your facility can give you ideas of how to perform tasks more safely and efficiently. Examples that can help workers avoid carpal tunnel injury:
Variety is the spice of life and the workplace should be no different. Adding variety to the daily tasks will interrupt repetition and can reduce risk of injury or common hand damage. A worker going through rotating tasks should not be subjected to multiple tasks involving similar movement. For this plan to be effective, new tasks should differ with the muscles and body parts used, repetition rate, amount of physical exertion required, environmental conditions, work place and visual and mental demands.
Workers using vibrating hand tools are often subject to more injuries like Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). Repeated or prolonged exposure to hand vibration can result in pain, fatigue, numbness, tingling and decreased sensitivity to touch. To prevent this:
(Read how our Vibrastop™ anti-vibration gloves helped reduce HAVS in one workplace then get a FREE sample below!)
Many employees who work in food manufacturing use hand tools for gripping and cutting. Because of this, it is necessary to choose the right tool for each job and the right tool for the worker’s hand. Choose tools that maximize performance, minimize physical demands, enhance work quality and prevent worker fatigue.
Train workers to use gentle pressure on the tool. Using excessive force when gripping a tool can lead to fatigue and overexertion. Ensure there are no white knuckles, overexertion of the index finger or over-bending of the thumb.
In short, make a plan and stick to it!
Unfortunately, some companies may choose to reduce the cost of business by lowering the cost per unit. Some companies may choose to cut back on safety practices or the cost of auditing safety practices. Sometimes, workers pay the ultimate price for this in injuries. It may seem like a headache, but taking the time to analyze your workplace and taking steps to reduce hand injuries can save your company thousands. Most importantly, it reduces accidents and injuries that can permanently disable a worker. It is a no-brainer that companies who make safety a priority are often the most successful companies. Well-implemented safety programs can actually increase revenue for a company, maintain product integrity and improve employee morale.
Put in place a PPE policy that provides workers with comfortable gloves that do the job correctly while protecting hands. Choose the correct gloves for the job. Along with enacting a PPE plan comes policies to make sure workers are using their protective equipment. Do your best to create a culture of safety in the workplace and reward workers for correctly using equipment. At the same time, you may want to consider penalizing workers who use PPE and other equipment incorrectly.
Most importantly, give workers the chance to give feedback and suggestions for improvement in the company. This helps workers to feel more important and critical in a company. Be open to any changes or procedures that may save your company time and money.
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Hand Injury Rates are Reduced by 60% when using the right gloves.