Hand injuries account for nearly 14% of all workplace injuries in the United States, according to the most recent published data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses.
Of those, approximately 41% of hand injuries are due to cuts and lacerations, but other hand injuries include punctures, sprains, strains, tears, fractures, bruises, thermal burns, chemical burns and corrosions, soreness, and pain.
Protecting your hands from injury
1. Be aware of hazards
One way to protect your hands from potential injury is to be aware of hazards, such as pinch points, chemical hazards and electrical hazards, so you know where and where not to put your hands.
Check your company’s policy on wearing jewelry if working in an area or with equipment in which bracelets, watches and wedding rings can get caught or cause potential injury.
2. Wear the appropriate gloves
Another way to protect your hands is to wear gloves appropriate for the task at hand.
When working with hand tools or sharp blades, handling hazardous chemicals or sharp and/or abrasive materials, or working in extreme temperatures, gloves should be worn to help protect the hands and fingers from potential injury.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) regulations for hand protection — 1910.138(a) — state that “employers shall select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when employees’ hands are exposed to hazards such as those from skin absorption of harmful substances; severe cuts or lacerations; severe abrasions; punctures; chemical burns; thermal burns; and harmful temperature extremes.”
OSHA’s hand protection standards also state that “employers shall base the selection of the appropriate hand protection on an evaluation of the performance characteristics of the hand protection relative to the task(s) to be performed, conditions present, duration of use, and the hazards and potential hazards identified.”
Cut-resistant gloves help protect hands from injury when using a sharp blade.
Each type of task requires a different type of glove.
For example, cut-resistant gloves, which are rated based on their ability to resist cutting by a sharp edge, should be worn when using a knife or sharp blade.
Chemical-resistant gloves, which are rated based on their ability to resist the passing through of chemicals on a molecular level as well as their ability to resist degradation, should be worn when handling chemicals. Note that different types of chemicals require different types of gloves, so you should always reference the chemical’s safety data sheet (SDS) to ensure you are using the correct glove.
Before using a pair of gloves for a job, you should inspect them for defects and remove them from service if any defects are found. Beware of gloves that are too loose or sliding off. Always be sure to wear your gloves properly and maintain them after use.
Each facility will have its own glove policy based on the industry and nature of the work. Be sure to familiarize yourself with and follow your site’s glove policy to reduce the risk of injury to your hands.
3. Proper hand care
Proper hand care is also imperative to reducing injuries. Simple things like stretching and flexing your hands and fingers can help relieve potential cramps or stiffness. Applying a moisturizing lotion can help soothe painful cracked or dry hands. Washing your hands frequently can prevent the spread of germs and illnesses.
Our hands are an important tool. Keep them safe by being aware of hazards, wearing the appropriate gloves for the job and following general hand care tips.