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Handle With Care

Published: 10th Jun 2011 in OSA Magazine

The human hand has 27 bones, 35 muscles and more than 120 ligaments. The hand is the principal human body part used to physically manipulate the environment around us.

Your hands are the number one receptor of your sense of touch, and can help to protect you against harmful temperatures, substances and objects.

We rely on our hands for almost every task we encounter throughout our day, from pouring your morning cup of coffee to turning the lights off at night. We easily take for granted the integral role the steady and functional operation of hands affords us.

Picture your day, or even the last hour prior to reading this article. How many times were your hands critical to what you were doing? Now, think about if you lost the use of a finger, or your hand, or both hands. You would likely agree this would have a severe impact on your quality of life.

Since we use our hands for so many things without thinking about it, it is easy to overlook the importance of protecting them. In 2009, in the United States alone, there were more than 269,000 unintentional injuries to the hand, wrist and fingers, accounting for almost 20% of all unintentional injuries.1

Occupational hand injuries can occur during a variety of tasks in the work environment. Hand hazards are apparent in almost every industry, including construction, mining and all types of manufacturing.

Hand injuries commonly result from working with machinery, tools, and contact with harmful substances.

As a safety professional, it is important to be aware of what machines, tools and substances your employees are working with. This will help you select the proper PPE (personal protective equipment) and engineering controls to protect your people on the job.

It is also important to make sure your employees are aware of the hazards and potential consequences to help reinforce their part in hand safety.
Injuries related to the hand can be classified into four categories: cuts and lacerations; contact with equipment; burns and other chemical related injuries; and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Each of these has its own associated risk factors.

Common injuries

Cuts and lacerations are the most common hand injury. They can range in severity from a small cut to the amputation of fingers or the entire hand. This risk is present when employees are exposed to sharp objects, chipped or broken glass, or use hand tools and power tools such as band saws and drill presses.

The hand coming into contact with nip points, pinch points, shear points and snag points of heavy machinery can also cause injury. These injuries are often
severe because the same force required to operate the machine is now being applied to hands and fingers.

Often the metal on machines or parts being produced can reach extreme temperatures. In the workplace, hot objects and exposure to certain chemicals can cause burns when they come into contact with unprotected hands.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are injuries to the muscles, skeleton, and tendons. These can occur to a hand in an acute incident or over time when the job requires excessive repetition, force, or awkward posture. Constant twisting, excessive or forceful gripping, or even typing on a keyboard can all contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger or other types of MSDs.

Hand injuries can result in multiple days away from work. In worst cases, workers may lose fingers or the entire hand, causing lifelong disability.
Almost all hand injuries are preventable. Through the use of engineering controls, PPE and awareness of the hazards, employees can protect their hands against the majority of injuries they encounter in the workplace. Much of this information can also be used off the job as well.

Engineering controls

Machine guards are engineering controls that help protect arms and hands when working around machinery and moving parts. A large proportion of the machines found in the working environment use some type of action, such as cutting, punching, shearing and bending to process your end product.

Actions occur at the point of operation and usually involve rotation, reciprocation and transversing. The danger for these actions exists at the point of operation where fingers, arms and other body parts may contact the point of operation and cause injury.

A machine guard provides a barrier of protection against dangers while allowing the worker to perform tasks safely and effectively. Even smoothly rotating shafts can grip hair, jewelry, and clothing, and through minor contact, force the hand and arm into a dangerous position.

There are many types of machine guards available for use, including fixed physical guards provided by the machine manufacturers or added after installation; two hand controls to keep the operator’s hands away from the hazards while in operation; fences to keep the operator a safe distance from the hazards or presence sensing devices designed to stop the machine when the employee passes through an invisible barrier.

A machine guard device should be as foolproof as possible to prevent an operator from contacting a hazard by going around, under, through or over.

A good safeguarding system eliminates the possibility of the operator or another worker placing parts of their bodies near hazardous moving parts.
Workers should not be able to easily remove or tamper with the safeguard, as a safeguard that can be removed is ineffective. The machine guard should be firmly secured to the machine and the machine should disable if the guard is removed or opened. If possible, one should be able to lubricate the machine without removing the safeguard.

Lastly, safeguards should be free of shear points, jagged edges or an unfinished surface which could cause a laceration. Inspect the machine guards at your site regularly for these issues and fix or replace them immediately.

Other engineering controls to protect hands include vacuum lifts and suction cups. These devices help employees avoid direct contact with materials or substances that could cause injury. Vacuum lifts and suction cups may be used to move objects which are sharp, at an extreme temperature or caustic.

There is often a balance between protecting the employee with 100% protection of guarding and allowing the employee to properly conduct his or her work in a safe manner. Any engineering control which hinders a worker from performing the job quickly and comfortably may soon be overridden or disregarded.

Proper safeguarding can enhance efficiency as it can relieve the concerns about injury. Discuss with your employees ideas for better material handing or guarding. Ensure your employees understand why the engineering controls are in place and how to properly use them to protect themselves and their quality of life.

Gloves

Although the number one focus is to remove or minimise hand injury risks through engineering controls, it is not possible to remove all hazards from operations. Different gloves are designed to protect the hands and fingers from specific types of hazards.

The variety of potential occupational hand injuries can make selecting the right pair of gloves challenging. The following are examples of some factors that can influence the selection of protective gloves for a workplace:

• Types of chemicals handled

• Nature of contact with chemicals (total immersion or splash)

• Duration of contact

• Area requiring protection (hand only or forearm, for example)

• Grip requirements (dry, wet, oily)

• Thermal protection

• Size and comfort

• Abrasion/resistance requirements 2

Types of gloves include: terry cloth or leather for general protection; neoprene or latex for handling hazardous chemicals; Kevlar for sharps and rubber insulated gloves for electrical burn protection. The type of glove used is determined by the job tasks and the hazards present at your facility.

Leather, canvas or metal mesh gloves

Sturdy gloves made from metal mesh, leather or canvas provide protection against cuts and burns. Leather or canvas gloves also protect against sustained heat.

• Leather gloves protect against sparks, moderate heat, blows, chips and rough objects

• Aluminised gloves provide reflective and insulating protection against heat and require an insert made of synthetic materials to protect against heat and cold

• Aramid fibre gloves protect against heat and cold, are cut and abrasive resistant, and wear well

• Synthetic gloves of various materials offer protection against heat and cold are cut and abrasive resistant, and may withstand some diluted acids. These materials do not stand up against alkalis and solvents 2

Fabric and coated fabric gloves

Fabric and coated fabric gloves are made of cotton or other fabric to provide varying degrees of protection.

• Fabric gloves protect against dirt, slivers, chafing and abrasions - they do not provide sufficient protection for use with rough, sharp or heavy materials

• Coated fabric gloves are normally made from cotton flannel with napping on one side. By coating the un-napped side with plastic, fabric gloves are transformed into general-purpose hand protection offering slip resistant qualities. These gloves are used for tasks ranging from handling bricks and wire to chemical laboratory containers. When selecting gloves to protect against chemical exposure hazards, always check with the manufacturer, or review the manufacturer’s product literature to determine the gloves’ effectiveness against specific workplace chemicals and conditions (OSHA, 2003)

Chemical and liquid resistant gloves

Chemical resistant gloves are made with different kinds of rubber: natural, butyl, neoprene, nitrile and fluorocarbon (viton); or various kinds of plastic, including polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyvinyl alcohol and polyethylene.

These materials can be blended or laminated for better performance. As a general rule, the thicker the glove material, the greater the chemical resistance, but thick gloves may impair grip and dexterity, having a negative impact on safety.

Some examples of chemical-resistant gloves include:

• Butyl gloves are made of a synthetic rubber and protect against a wide variety of chemicals, such as peroxide, rocket fuels, highly corrosive acids (nitric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrofluoric acid and red-fuming nitric acid), strong bases, alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, esters and nitrocompounds. Butyl gloves also resist oxidation, ozone corrosion and abrasion, and remain flexible at low temperatures. Butyl rubber does not perform well with aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons and halogenated solvents

• Natural (latex) rubber gloves are comfortable to wear, which makes?them a popular general-purpose glove. They feature outstanding tensile strength, elasticity and temperature resistance. In addition to resisting abrasions caused by grinding and polishing, these gloves protect workers’ hands from most water solutions of acids, alkalis, salts and ketones. Latex gloves have caused allergic reactions in some individuals and may not be appropriate for all employees. Hypoallergenic gloves, glove liners and powderless gloves are possible alternatives for workers who are allergic to latex gloves

• Neoprene gloves are made of synthetic rubber and offer good pliability, finger dexterity, high density and tear resistance. They protect against hydraulic fluids, gasoline, alcohols, organic acids and alkalis. They generally have chemical and wear resistance properties superior to those made of natural rubber

• Nitrile gloves are made of a copolymer and provide protection from chlorinated solvents such as trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene. Although intended for jobs requiring dexterity and sensitivity, nitrile gloves stand up to heavy use even after prolonged exposure to substances that cause other gloves to deteriorate. They offer protection when working with oils, greases, acids, caustics and alcohols but are generally not recommended for use with strong oxidising agents, aromatic solvents, ketones and acetates 2

The US Department of Energy (Occupational Safety & Health Technical Reference Manual) rates various gloves as being protective against specific chemicals and will help you select the appropriate gloves to protect your employees. The full manual can be found at: http://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3151.html. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has also developed a rating system for gloves. ANSI standards can be purchased at www.ansi.org. When in doubt, consult the manufacturer’s recommendations for glove use.

Protective gloves should be inspected thoroughly before each use to ensure there are no cracks, punctures or tears in the material. Gloves that are discolored or stiff may also indicate deficiencies caused by excessive use or degradation from chemical exposure.

Gloves must be the proper size for each employee, allowing enough strength and dexterity to safely perform the task at hand. If gloves are in any way defective, they should be disposed of immediately.

Reuse of chemical resistant gloves should be evaluated carefully, taking into consideration the absorptive qualities of the gloves, as well as the toxicity of the chemicals involved, and factors such as duration of exposure, storage and temperature.

Work tools and housekeeping

To protect against electrical shock, ensure all power tools are in good working condition. Tools with frayed cords or exposed wires can cause serious electrical burns and should be removed from service immediately. If maintenance must be performed on a machine, the machine should be locked out by authorised personnel.

Enforce good housekeeping in the work area to protect employees against the carelessness of others. For example, a board with a nail sticking out can become a hand puncture hazard for an unsuspecting co-worker.

Keep work areas free of debris, scraps and other harmful substances. Chemicals should be handled and stored properly to prevent exposure. Tools and cutting devices should not be left out where someone could come into accidental contact with them.

Keeping the work area clean and following best safety practices when working with tools, cutters and machinery can help to reduce the
risk of accidental hand injuries in your work environment.

Conclusion

In the event of any occupational injury, including hand and arm, employees must know the proper emergency response and first aid procedures for your work environment. Although hand injuries are almost 100% preventable through the methods described in this article, they still may occur, and everyone must be ready to respond in the appropriate manner.

Hand injuries can be prevented by assessing the hazards and taking necessary precautions, following best safety practices for each task, and utilising engineering controls and proper PPE for the job.

Our hands are an integral part of our daily lives, not just for use on the job, but in everything we do. Handle them with care. 

References:

1. National Safety Council. (2010). Injury Facts. Itasca, IL: National Safety Council.

2. OSHA. (2003). Personal Protective Equipment. 22 - 29.

3. Summit Training Source. (2008). Hand Safety: Handle wth Care. Summit

Training Source.

4. Summit Training Source. (n.d.). Hand
Safety: Lacerations.

5. Summit Training Source. (n.d.). Machine Guard Awareness.

Author Details:

Sara Wesche has been with Summit Training Source for more than nine years. Her creative skill and expert writing abilities led her to the Marketing Specialist position, and ultimately managing the marketing department in 2003. Sara’s focus has been developing Summit’s World Wide Web presence, to generate sales leads through multiple medias, and to create marketing support materials that solidify Summit’s position as the complete EH&S training solution provider. Sara graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Sara can be reached at SaraW@safetyontheweb.com or @SafetyTraining1 on Twitter.

Summit Training Source has been an environmental, health and safety training innovator for nearly 30 years. More than 40,000 clients worldwide trust the health and safety of their employees and work sites to Summit’s expert training capabilities. With in excess of 600 environmental, health, and safety training titles in multiple formats, including Online, DVD, Streaming Video, Summit Elements, and Online OSHA-accepted 10 & 30 Hour, Summit provides proven content that delivers the business results expected in today’s competitive
global environment.

Summit programmes create an awareness and respect of workplace hazards and reduce incidents, accidents, and their associated costs. Summit was the first training provider to offer interactive CD-ROM training, leading the way into the interactive technology age. Summit’s online platform, Summit Trainingweb®, offers customers global consistency, 24/7 availability, and is based on adult learning theories to create a more comprehensive and
engaging programme.

Summit’s programmes are effective, offering a return on investment to customers. Our continued mission is to provide the highest quality training programmes available, meeting industry needs and complying with all regulatory guidelines, enhancing the future productivity, growth, and bottom line results for all our customers.

For free previews of any Summit programme or access to Summit Trainingweb® online courses call 800-842-0466 or visit
www.safetyontheweb.com
 

www.osedirectory.com/health-and-safety.php

Published: 10th Jun 2011 in OSA Magazine

Author


Sara Wesche


Sara Wesche has been with Summit Training Source for more than nine years. Her creative skill and expert writing abilities led her to the Marketing Specialist position, and ultimately to managing the marketing department in 2003. Sara’s focus has been developing Summit’s World Wide Web presence, to generate sales leads through multiple medias, and to create marketing support materials that solidify Summit’s position as the complete EH&S training solution provider. Sara graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Sara can be reached at SaraW@safetyontheweb.com or at SafetyTraining1 on Twitter.

Summit Training Source has been an environmental, health and safety training innovator for more than 29 years. In excess of 40,000 clients worldwide trust the health and safety of their employees and work sites to Summit’s expert training capabilities. With at least 600 environmental, health, and safety training titles in multiple formats, including Online, DVD, Streaming Video, Summit Elements, and Online OSHA accepted 10 & 30 Hour, Summit provides proven content that delivers the business results expected in today’s competitive global environment.

Summit programmes create an awareness and respect of workplace hazards and reduce incidents, accidents, and their associated costs. Summit was the first training provider to offer interactive CD-ROM training, leading the way into the interactive technology age. Summit’s online platform, Summit Trainingweb®, offers customers global consistency, 24/7 availability, and is based on adult learning theories to create a more comprehensive and engaging programme. Summit’s Online OSHA 10 & 30 Hour training for Construction and General Industry has been authorised by OSHA.

Summit’s programmes are effective, offering a return on investment to customers. Our continued mission is to provide the highest quality training programmes available, meeting industry needs and complying with all regulatory guidelines, enhancing the future productivity, growth, and bottom line results for all our customers.

For free previews of any Summit programme or access to Summit Trainingweb® online courses, call 800-842-0466 or visit http://www.safetyontheweb.com

 


Sara Wesche

Website:
http://www.safetyontheweb.com

Email:
SaraW@safetyontheweb.com

Phone:
800-842-0466

SaraW@safetyontheweb.com
http://www.safetyontheweb.com
800-842-0466

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