Hands are quickly becoming one of the leading injured body parts in occupational safety. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics report, during the year 2014 hand injuries had an incidence rate of 12.7. This rating places hand injuries in the top five.
How Severe are these Hand Injuries?
According to an occupational injury study, 10% of hand injuries resulted in a fracture.
Fractures are considered long term medical care. You can’t just place a band aid on the cut and move on. Fractures usually require some sort of splint or cast and several follow up appointments with the occupational physician. Not only will the employer be on tap for all the medical expense, but the employer may also be held liable for the employee’s loss of motion sustained with the injury. For instance, let’s say that before the incident the employee has full range of their index finger — they can extend and contract the finger with no issues. However, the employee sustains a finger crushing injury at work that causes a fracture. The employee’s finger is placed in a splint and the finger had limited movement because it can’t fully extend. The employee has several physical therapy sessions to help regain full control of the finger. The employer will be responsible for the costs of the therapy and a temporary impairment benefit to the employee while they are recouping their range of motion.
Industries Affected by Severe Hand Injuries
Hand injuries are common to almost every workplace, from construction to food processing. However, manufacturing environments are more prone to sustaining severe hand injuries. According to the occupational injury study, nearly 50% of the hand injuries occurred in a manufacturing environment with 150 employees or less. Manufacturing environments can pose several workplace hazards. You may have pinch points from rolling conveyor belts or assembly lines. There may also be crushing points from rotating machinery such as gears or agitators. Crushing injuries could also occur from mechanical presses. As Denise M. Oleske, PhD, and Jerome J. Hahn, MD explain in their informative article, “Work-Related Injuries of the Hand: Data from an Occupational Injury/Illness Surveillance System”, “Although fractures and amputations consisted of only 10 percent of the cases, they accounted for 20 percent of the medical costs of hand and finger injuries.”
To help identify areas where employees are at risk for hand injuries, you should conduct a hazard analysis. A hazard analysis is a process in which you examine a job task for potential risk to the employee. Once you have identified areas where employees could get hurt, then you can focus on implementing control measures to help reduce the potential for exposure to those hazards.
The Solution? Proper Hand Protection
Shockingly, according to related statistics, a whopping 74 percent of the employees surveyed were not wearing ANY hand protection at time of injury. This increases their odds of sustaining hand injuries exponentially. Just as with any other personal protective equipment (or PPE), if you don’t wear it, it won’t work. You have to wear hand protection in order to see a reduction in hand injuries in your workplace. Many times, wearing PPE might be considered time-consuming. The employee might think that the task is so quick that they don’t need to wear their gloves while doing it… Which could be a fatal mistake.
Because of this, employees should take the time to wear the right PPE. In addition, employers should review the job tasks and provide proper safety equipment. If you find employees not wanting to wear their assigned gloves, examine why. Do the gloves provide the employee with proper dexterity levels for the task? Do the gloves fit properly? If you need to re-evaluate the type of hand protection you are wearing, and the type of glove isn’t so clear, consider conducting a glove trial. Utilize a select few employees to test out the effectiveness of the different glove styles in the work environment. At the end of the trial, not only will you have the proper hand protection for the job, but you will also have employee buy-in because they now feel part of the process.
Did you know that we offer free glove trials (also known as glove audits)? That’s right — we’ll send a few of our glove experts right to your workplace to evaluate the PPE that you’re currently using, bring some work glove styles for your workers to try out, and suggest some potential areas for improvement in your workplace. Let us help you improve worker compliance with PPE and make your workplace that much safer: request your free glove audit now.
Source: Olekse, Denise M., and Jerome J. Hahn. “Work-Related Injuries of the Hand: Data from an Occupational Injury/Illness Surveillance System.” Journal of Community Health 17.4 (August 1992): 205-218. Web. 1 June 2016.