Hand Protection In The Workplace | It’s More Important Than You Think
A hand injury is literally the most common type of injury in the workplace. Hand injuries are even more prominent in the electric, gas, telecommunications construction, and construction industries. In fact, according to a study released in 2013 by the National Safety Council (NSC), injuries to the hands made up 16.5 percent of ALL workplace injuries in 2010. It has also been estimated that the average hand injury will cost around $3700, and that’s not including lost work days or loss in production for the company. When employees are working with heavy objects, chemicals, moving parts, electricity, and large machines, among other things, their hands can be exposed to very harsh conditions as well as the possibility of injury. The most unfortunate part of this is the fact that almost all hand injuries that occur in a given year could’ve been prevented had the workers been using the correct hand protection.
All workplaces and job sites should have some type of a hand safety program. This should include hazard analysis, hazard awareness training, assessment, and periodic evaluations of the program as well as all employees. With a great hand safety program in place, not only will your job site become much safer for workers, but employees will have much greater morale, and thus greater productivity, since they know their company is taking the necessary measures to protect them. Here, we will give you a basic rundown of what a hand safety program should constitute, which situations demand hand protection, and the appropriate type of protection to wear in each given situation.
For any job that requires extra hand protection, work gloves should be used. These types of jobs usually involve:
- Climbing poles or ladders.
- Handling any type of tools, materials, or equipment that have sharp, jagged, or splintered edges.
- Projects that could lead to heat or chemical burns. This could involve handling molten solder or compounds.
- Executing any tasks that could lead to cuts, burns, or abrasions to the hands.
It is also important to be aware if you are working around heavy machinery, or any type of machinery with moving parts, in which your gloves could get caught and lead to disastrous consequences.
One of the most important, yet most underlooked, parts of wearing hand protection is sizing the glove correctly. Gloves that are too big will affect the worker’s gripping ability and dexterity. If the glove is too small, then the hands will tire easily and the glove will wear out quicker than usual. Make sure your glove fits! You also want to make sure that you are using the correct glove for the given task or situation. Workers should be aware of the following things when choosing which type of glove they will be wearing:
- Grip ability.
- Flexibility and dexterity.
- Abrasions, punctures, and resistance to tears.
- Comfort level.
- Chemical permeability.
- Thermal conditions, heat, and cold.
- High and low voltage.
There are specific situations in which wearing gloves would not be logical since they would affect the clean application of some types of materials. If you are working in one of these situations, you will still want to make sure that you are wearing the correct type of hand protection if you are working on a de-energized conductor. The situations we are speaking of include:
- Working with waterproofing materials.
- Working with stress relief materials.
- Installing any kind of tape including varnished cambric oil tapes and vinyl tapes.
- Working with mastics or Hi-K putty.
- Locating oil-insulated papers or insulation of cables.
- Pre-insulating paper and lead splices.
- Cleaning cable insulation.
- Confined areas like the junction of a three-conductor splice.
- Cleaning cable insulation.
It goes without telling that your hands are the most important tools you will ever work with. You only get two and you use them in almost literally every facet of life, inside as well as outside of the workplace. Don’t be foolish and injure or lose them simply because your are being ignorant about hand safety. Use the proper hand protection and keep your hands working and productive for a lifetime.