Employees across industries are subject to hand injuries, some of which can be career-ending.
To ensure workplaces that are safe for employees, OSHA standards require employers to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and gear to prevent injury like chemical absorption, thermal burns, cuts, puncture wounds, scrapes, and broken bones as appropriate based on the typical hazards in a particular workplace.
Here are some common-sense strategies employers can use to reduce the chances of employee hand injuries at work, as well as the financial and legal liabilities that can accompany them.
How to Prevent Hand Injuries at Work
One of the best ways for employers to prevent hand injuries at work is to thoroughly assess workflows and identify areas where hand injuries are likely. Then, ensure that employees have the proper safety gear and effective training to protect themselves in those specific situations.
When employees receive instruction in a language they can understand before operating machinery, tools or other equipment that could cause injury to their hands, they are better prepared to protect themselves.
Beyond machinery, simple ergonomic challenges can cause repetitive stress injuries in hands, and so workspaces should be arranged in a way that reduces these conditions. Safety training can include learning to avoid distractions and tips on paying attention to things that could cause injury during equipment usage, like protrusions, chips, cracks, warps, and breaks in materials that are being cut, welded, nailed or otherwise worked on.
For workplaces where employees use equipment and machinery, these should also be inspected by employees before use, and any malfunction reported promptly. All safety features on a piece of equipment should be fully functional. Once a malfunction is reported, there should be a process in place for addressing the repair and allowing employees to check the status of equipment before using it. Malfunctions should be documented, as should a machine’s progress through a repair queue.
How to Treat Hand Injuries at Work
Workplace safety procedures typically address how to assist in the event of a hand injury. These safety guidelines should include how to request assistance in addressing ergonomic changes for repetitive stress injuries. Safety Data Sheets should be on hand in case of injuries caused by exposure to chemicals or harmful substances.
General first aid training for hand injuries includes applying pressure to stop the bleeding for cuts and other wounds that break the skin, followed by applying antibiotic ointment and a bandage. Use ice to treat sprains and strains. Call 911 for life-threatening injuries and notify the on-duty supervisor, safety officer, human resources department, upper management, and any other outside agencies as required.
Workplace hand injuries may be common but they don’t have to be. With the right combination of education, training, and precautions, employers can reduce the chances of employee injury.
Fewer injuries can mean less absenteeism and lower costs related to medical care, OSHA fines and penalties, legal fees, and lost productivity. When employees see a commitment to their safety on the part of their employer, it can also enhance employee morale, reduce turnover, and improve the safety culture.