Guarding Our Grasp: A Comprehensive Guide to Hand Safety

June 24, 2023
Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

Key Takeaways:

  • Hand injuries are common yet highly preventable workplace incidents. Proper protection measures can mitigate a significant portion of these incidents.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), specifically safety gloves, plays a crucial role in maintaining hand safety.
  • Glove selection, usage, and maintenance are essential aspects of ensuring hand safety.
  • Awareness, proper training, and prompt reporting of hand-related incidents further contribute to a safe working environment.

Hand Safety: A Vital yet Overlooked Aspect of Workplace Safety

With over 110,000 lost-time hand injuries occurring in the U.S. each year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, hand safety is undeniably a crucial aspect of overall workplace safety. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that a whopping 71% of all hand injuries could be prevented with the appropriate use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), particularly safety gloves. It’s time to turn our attention towards enhancing hand safety measures in the workplace, and this starts with understanding the top tips for hand safety.

Choosing the Right Glove: The First Step to Protection

Hand protection begins with choosing the right glove for the task at hand. The diverse range of glove options can often be overwhelming, and making the right choice is crucial. Each glove type is designed to offer specific protection levels against cuts, impacts, heat, chemicals, and abrasion. Selecting the wrong glove can potentially amplify the danger rather than mitigating it.

Your glove selection should be guided by a clear understanding of the risks associated with the specific task you’ll be performing. For instance, a task involving chemical handling would necessitate a glove with chemical resistance, while a task involving sharp objects would call for cut-resistant gloves. Always be aware of the intended purpose of each glove type and choose accordingly.

Consistent Usage and Appropriate Fit: Enhancing Glove Efficacy

Once the correct glove has been chosen, it’s imperative to use the glove as intended and avoid taking them off during the task. If the gloves hinder your dexterity or are uncomfortable, consult with your safety manager rather than attempting to perform the task without them. An alternative glove type might provide the dexterity and comfort you need without compromising protection.

Equally important is the fit of the gloves. A glove that’s too large decreases dexterity and increases fatigue as your hand must work harder to keep it in place. Conversely, a glove that’s too small restricts movement and causes discomfort and excessive perspiration. Understanding your glove size and choosing gloves that fit comfortably and snugly can significantly enhance their protective efficacy.

Glove Maintenance: Maximizing Longevity and Protection

All gloves, regardless of whether they are reusable, have a lifespan beyond which they shouldn’t be used. It’s essential to be aware of this lifespan, usually determined by the number of uses or the number of hours the gloves can be worn. Regularly inspect your gloves for signs of wear and tear such as snags, pulls, thin spots, holes, tears, or excessive saturation. If any of these signs are evident, it’s time to discard the glove and use a new pair.

Another key aspect of glove maintenance is adhering to appropriate donning and doffing procedures. Always put on your safety gloves after donning other PPE like coveralls, goggles, or sleeves, and before you’re exposed to any hazards. When removing your gloves, avoid contact with any potential hazards. Always follow the recommended guidelines for safe doffing and dispose of or store your gloves properly depending on whether they’re single-use or reusable.

Maintaining a Jewelry-Free Environment: Reducing Hidden Risks

While it might seem harmless, wearing rings or bracelets underneath your gloves can distort the fit of the gloves and affect their protective capabilities. Jewelry can also cause snags, pulls, and punctures in the glove material, thereby increasing your risk of hand injury. To maintain optimal hand safety, it’s recommended to remove all jewelry from your hands and wrists before donning your gloves.

Staying Alert and Aware: A Proactive Approach to Hand Safety

The risk of hand injuries escalates when workers are fatigued or distracted. Fatigue can slow down reaction times and impair judgment, while distraction can lead to errors. It’s crucial to stay alert and focused, making sure your hand movements are intentional and deliberate. Regular breaks, especially during repetitive tasks, can help maintain your alertness. Also, regular hand stretching can offer your muscles and tendons the chance to recover. Never perform tasks under the influence of drugs or alcohol and be mindful of the side effects of prescription drugs that can impact your alertness or coordination.

Using Tools and Machinery Properly: Safety in Skill and Knowledge

Correct use of tools, machinery, and equipment is a crucial aspect of hand safety. Always receive appropriate training before using any equipment and follow operating guidelines diligently. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if in doubt. Familiarize yourself with the safety features and emergency off switches of the machinery you’re operating. Avoid removing safety guards and never perform maintenance or repairs on running equipment. Regular inspection of your tools and equipment before each shift can help identify and address potential safety concerns.

Avoiding Hazardous Actions: Reinforcing Safe Work Practices

Despite wearing safety gloves, certain actions should be consistently avoided. These include placing your hands near sharp or moving parts and inserting them into areas where visibility is restricted. Always prioritize safety over saving time or effort and don’t rely solely on your reflexes to keep you safe.

Reporting Injuries: A Crucial Part of Hand Safety Management

In the event of a hand injury, seeking immediate medical assistance is paramount. Don’t wait for pain, bleeding, or discomfort to subside before reporting an injury, no matter how minor it may seem. Timely evaluation and treatment of injuries can significantly reduce their severity and long-term impact. Report close calls, near misses, and almost-occurred injuries to your manager to help identify and implement strategies to prevent such incidents in the future.

Conclusion: Prioritizing Hand Safety for a Safer Workplace

Hand safety matters and requires both awareness and proactive measures to maintain. By implementing these tips and integrating them into your workplace safety culture, you can significantly reduce the risk of hand injuries. Remember, in the realm of workplace safety, your hands are your most valuable tools—protect them wisely.

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