Hand Safety: Staying Focused on the Task at Hand

Handsafety_nov2011_webWhile many have trouble seeing job safety as a major concern at their office job, those working industrial, construction, or other blue collar jobs work with highly dangerous equipment see it every day. When spending time working with hazardous machinery, chemicals, or tools, accidents can and do happen, and they usually involve the hands. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, hand injuries send more than one million workers to the emergency room each year.

Second to neglecting to wear protective equipment, a main cause of hand injuries is a lack of awareness.  Hand safety shouldn’t solely rely on proper glove use. One of the best and most effective means of hand protection is good hand position. To help keep your hands happy, here are some ways for you to stay focused on your job and keep an eye out for potential dangers you could be placing your hands in.

Ride Into the Danger Zone

Before working with potentially dangerous equipment, recognize the hazardous areas and develop a work practice to keep your hands away from the “danger zone.”  It’s an important preventative procedure to maintain an effective barrier between your hands and hazards when operating machinery.

When handling dangerous materials, try using tools like pliers to move or hold extremely hot or hazardous materials, determine if there are multiple energy sources on the same piece of equipment, or prepare for an unexpected slip or release when applying force.

Each tool and piece of equipment has its own danger zone that varies from model to model. Be sure to get with your manager and company Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to learn what areas are the most dangerous.

Offhanded Placement

Jobs and duties can get repetitive, especially in industrial or construction work, which makes it easier for workers to get complacent and less compliant with safety standards. When workers start taking their safety procedures for granted, the little mistakes slip by and cause huge accidents. Many times, hand injuries happen because workers were not paying attention to where their unused hand was placed.

No matter what your job is, it is important to stay focused and be alert when any hand is near dangerous equipment. You can avoid harmful situations by being aware of your danger zones and keeping the unused hand in sight. Try shifting your body weight occasionally if you find yourself leaning too much. Better posture can lead to longer periods of standing without fatigue, avoid long-term complications like tendinitis, and will help keep you safer when using dangerous machinery.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Having your task, hands, and tools within direct eyesight can help prevent hand injuries on the job. If you have to reach for something like a dropped tool or clogged machine part, make sure you can see where your hand is going to avoid getting your hand crushed or knocking over hazardous materials.

Keep in mind the area around you and check around your operating area for rough or sharp edges, kill-switches on machines, and maintain a clean and tidy workspace. This way, you can focus on your job and reduce the risk of grazing you hand on a sharp edge, tripping over something on the floor and catching your hand in a machine, or getting hit by a misplaced tool that gets caught in the machine.

Workers can become complacent when performing repetitive job duties and lose track of where their hands or bodies are placed. Gloves may protect you when an accident occurs, but being alert and aware of where your hands are helps prevent the accidents from happening. How does your company encourage hand safety?

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