Each year, hand injuries send more than one million American workers to emergency rooms each year. In fact, hand injuries are the second leading cause of work related injuries in the United States. While the most common causes of hand injuries for workers are blunt trauma, followed by cuts and punctures from sharp objects, there are numerous other hand injuries that workers commonly experience as well. Abrasions, fractures or dislocations, burns, chemical exposure and even amputations are hand injuries that are frequently seen in hospital ERs.
Which workers are at the highest risk for receiving hand injuries? While anyone can become victim to hand injuries, those in manufacturing environments are at a significantly higher risk. Workers in the manufacturing field suffer a variety of injuries to their hands due to increased exposure to machinery, chemicals and other hazards. According to PubMed.org, other factors that increase the risk of work related hand injuries are: rotational shift work, working alone, the nonavailability of proper protective equipment, the lack of proper tools and inadequate safety training.
Reducing the Risk for Hand Injuries in the Workplace
Fortunately, the risk for hand injuries can be significantly reduced in most cases.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is vital to the safety of American workers. Unfortunately, in an attempt to cut costs many companies purchase inadequate or ill fitting PPE, and some don’t provide needed PPE at all or require the use thereof. According to a report by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, an estimated 70 percent of on the job hand injuries were due to the worker not wearing gloves. Of the workers who were injured while wearing gloves, the injuries occurred because the gloves were damaged, inadequate, or the wrong type of glove for the hazard.
- Educating workers about proper safety practices and enforcing things like the use of safety guards, lock out tag out procedures, safety stickers and other preventative measures can significantly reduce the risk for work related hand injuries.
- Encouraging workers to use proper ergonomics, especially when performing repetitive tasks, can be essential to hand injury prevention.
- Encouraging employees to seek medical evaluations and follow through with any necessary medical treatment when they experience a hand injury can help ensure that hand injuries remain a temporary problem instead of a permanent loss of function or disfigurement.