The most dynamic and essential tools cannot be found in a toolbox or hanging from a pegboard in the garage: they are conveniently located at the end of our arms.
Our hands are our personal, built-in multifunctional tools. They are vital to many diverse professions and our everyday existence. Their value is immeasurable – and that’s why protecting our hands in the workplace and at home is so critical.
Unfortunately, hand safety is frequently an afterthought. In fact, nearly 10 percent of hospital emergency room visits are hand injuries. At Newmont, we’re working toward a Culture of Zero Harm, yet more than 50 percent of total reportable injuries in 2012 were hand-related. And while improper cutting techniques and pinched fingers are a leading cause of many hand injuries, there are countless other risks to our hands.
Obviously, hands can get crushed by heavy machinery or burned by harsh chemicals. But even engaging in repetitive movements or tasks can cause joint pain, swelling and decreased range of motion. We believe that all injuries are preventable and a safe working environment is key to a successful business.
So, how do you reduce hand injuries on the job or at home? The best prevention for such injuries is to remove the hazard altogether or ‘engineer it out’ of the task. When that’s not possible, the following tips may help.
Tips for Keeping Hands Safe
- Be aware of where your hands are and keep them away from sharp objects and edges, chemicals, heavy objects, moving parts and other hazards
- Keep your eyes on your task and on your hands
- Use the right tool for the job
- Employ proper cutting techniques: use a stable surface and cut away from your body
- Avoid working while fatigued
- Stretch and exercise your hands regularly
- Do not multitask to expedite work
- Wear gloves
Regarding the final tip, a study conducted by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that 70 percent of workers who experienced hand injuries were not wearing gloves. Consider the following when selecting gloves for your task.
- Choose the right glove for the specific task – You wouldn’t wear a bathing suit in a blizzard, so why would you wear leather gloves when handling chemicals or plastic gloves taking a hot pan out of the oven?
- Make sure it fits…like a glove – Gloves that are too small may rip or tear. Gloves that are too large may slip off your hands or get caught in machinery. Both scenarios present serious risks. Ensure that your glove is the same as your hand measurement in inches around your palm. Also, make sure your gloves are the proper length for the job.
- Check for wear and tear – Leather and cotton gloves should be kept clean and stored in a clean, dry place. Make sure your hands are clean before you put on your gloves. Remove any rings, watches and bracelets to prevent rips and tears. As soon as you see signs of disintegration in your gloves, replace them with a new pair.
Injuries to hands can be life-changing. So before you pick up a tool, begin using machines or equipment, or engage in seemingly harmless tasks, slow down, pay attention and pull on your gloves. By being aware of hand hazards at work and at home – as well as how to prevent them – you are already taking steps to protect one of your most important “tools.”