Think about how amazing your hands are. These strong and unique tools allow you to grasp, pinch, twist, lift hold, and manipulate objects of all shapes and sizes. Your hands are strong, but they are made of skin, tiny bones, muscles, blood vessels, ligaments, tendons, and nerves, so they are also vulnerable. Hands can be crushed, pinched, cut, and burned. Fortunately, most of these injuries can be avoided if you work carefully.
The likelihood of suffering a hand injury increases when you work too quickly or take shortcuts. Don’t rush – work at a smooth, safe pace. Don’t take shortcuts. Use the right tool for the job and make sure you know how to use it safely. Never remove any guards that are intended to protect your hands from moving parts. Never attempt to adjust or repair any power tools or machinery without first making sure the power is off and the machine is locked out.
Think about what you are doing, and watch where you put your hands and fingers to avoid getting them smashed or crushed. Keep your hands away from running gears and sprockets. Be on the lookout for pinch points that could crush a finger. If you are lifting or carrying a load with another person, be sure to communicate with one another. Watch your knuckles when carrying loads through doorways.
Use caution when handling sharp objects such as saw blades, razor knives, HVAC ducts, metal studs, etc. All these objects can cause hand injuries. When you reach into a toolbox, do it carefully since you can’t always see what’s piled up in there – an unprotected drill bit could cause a cut or a puncture wound. Check for sharp edges, nails, staples, etc., before you pick up any object.
Over time, highly repetitive tasks can cause cumulative trauma injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome. If you repeat the same motions with your hands for long periods of time or with great force, you are at risk. Work with your supervisor to find ways to reduce the repetitions or the force, or make time for breaks to reduce the likelihood of injury.
Wear gloves that are appropriate for the task at hand. If you’re doing hot work or if you handle hot objects, wear gloves that will protect your hand from heat. If you work with hazardous chemicals, wear chemical-resistant gloves to avoid a chemical burn. Cut-resistant gloves will protect your hands from cuts and lacerations. Some gloves will reduce your grip, so be careful. In general, you should not wear gloves around machines with rotating parts or parts that could catch the glove and pull in your hand. Additionally, don’t wear rings or other jewelry that could get caught in a machine.
Understand the hazards to your hands and work cautiously. Protect your hands today so they’ll be able to do amazing things for many years to come.
Safety reminder – train yourself to resist the typical reaction to catch a tool when it falls. If you try to catch a falling knife, you are very likely to get a painful, maybe serious, cut.