Fingers - Mind Your Digits

Our hands and fingers are some of our greatest assets, which is why giving them the attention they deserve is important for a host of reasons. We use our hands and fingers to do many things on a daily basis. They pull wire, make terminations, steer vehicles, create wonderful works of art, shape and form metal and wood, and they make the impossible possible. Unfortunately, many know what it is like to not have these assets at their disposal and understand the challenges that presents.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tells us that in 2014 there were 137,440lost-time cases that resulted due to hand injuries. The BLS also reported that in 2013 that there were 139,820 lost-time cases that resulted due to hand injuries.

safety-corner-pic.gifNext to back injuries, our hands seem to be an area that can use some focus when it comes to workplace safety.

One would think that keeping track of those digits that are permanently affixed to our hands shouldn’t be all that difficult. After all, it’s not like we’re herding cats. Unfortunately, statistics tell us we need to focus in this area.

UNDERSTANDING INJURIES

The first step in this process is to understand the problem and recognize the hazards. When it comes to hand injuries, we could create the obvious laundry list of basic injuries received: Pinches, abrasions, cuts, strains, bruises, dislocations, amputations, and the infamous carpal tunnel syndrome are just a few. When I typically speak to this topic, I use my own hands as my own personal tour through the discussion. Some of us have to learn the hard way when it comes to protecting our hands. There’s a scar on my pinky finger from the stitches needed after it was pinched in an aluminum brake when I was just a kid helping my dad. There’s a scar on the back of the hand from the sharp nails of my dog, which I received while playing on the living room floor. And the two scars near my knuckle occurred when a #12, or it could have been a #14, conductor entered and exited after I cut and trimmed up the wire and slipped forward. A controlled exploration of your team’s past injuries to the hand can help us all understand that closer attention to safety around this subject is warranted.

In addition to understanding the types of hand injuries that are occurring, understanding which hand is dominant can provide more insight when compared to which hand was injured. It is more common to injure the non-dominant hand than it is the dominant hand. The cause of the injury is going to differ depending on which hand it was that was injured as well. It makes sense when you think of it with regard to the fact that we use our dominant hand to do things such as use a knife, hammer, or other tools. We are also less aware of our non-dominant hand in many instances. I have read that we more often lean on our non-dominant hand when resting, which could be the making of a recipe for an injury when you marry that with the fact that our awareness around that hand is less. It is advisable to have both left-handed and right-handed individuals on your safety review committee to ensure you have both perspectives when looking at hazards.

The other injury that can be associated with keeping our digits and hands under control is shock when our hands come in contact with energized conductors or equipment. We can’t forget the fact that our hands are the first and often only parts of our bodies inside electrical equipment.

Wrapping your head around the types of injuries occurring to your team is a starting point. The next step is to understand how they are occurring and recognizing the hazards.

RECOGNIZING THE HAZARDS

In reality, hazards to our hands are all around us, the threat may change because of our profession