Hand Protection

Hand injuries can be extremely traumatic. Not only do they inhibit a person’s ability to work, but they can also limit the ability to perform everyday activities.

According to Dr. Greg Merrell, a surgeon at the Indiana Hand Center - the largest hand surgery center in the country, there are two primary types of workplace injuries – traumatic events, and overuse or repetitive-motion injuries.

According to Dr. Merrell, amputations and other serious injuries typically occur because of a lack of experience or training. Current economic conditions may worsen the risk. Employers may be forced to hire less experienced workers to fill positions once held by more seasoned employees. In other cases, workers may be reassigned to tasks they’re not familiar with, increasing the risk of injury.

Dr. Merrell is skeptical about the direct link between work activities and conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, whether on the production floor or in the office. He cites a number of studies that cast doubt on the strict workplace cause of the symptoms. He believes, instead, that the conditions usually result when other risks are present such as severe cold, exaggerated wrist position, or excessive grip/force requirements. He also notes the effect of non-work activities such as gardening and sports, as well as the overall aging of the population. Younger tendons are better able than older tissue to sustain repetitive work, lifts, etc.

Regardless of the cause, there are several steps you can take to help reduce the risk of hand injuries and to minimize the impact of those that do occur.

  1. Recognize the value of seasoned workers, especially in high-risk positions
  2. Invest in workplace training. The time you spend training yourself and others can help reduce lost work time and workers’ compensation claims.
  3. Indentify opportunities to increase the comfort and ergonomics of tools. Find ways to decrease the amount of force workers must apply to create and assemble parts. This will increase safety and decrease absenteeism.
  4. Cross-train employees and rotate them during the day, or between shifts, so that they’re using different muscle/tendon groups. This will help increase job satisfaction and decrease the risk of repetitive-use injuries, especially in older workers.
  5. Consider an on-site occupational health nurse. The presence of a caring, competent nurse communicates to workers that you care about their comfort and safety.
  6. Establish a plan, together with your workers’ compensation carrier, for how you will manage hand injuries. Some businesses acknowledge that, even though the ailments may have been caused by non-work factors, they can be claimed through workers’ compensation. This shows that you value your workers and their overall well-being.

Following these few simple steps will help prevent hand injuries and maintain the health and welfare of you and your workers.

Source: safetydailyadvisor.blr.com/archive/2009/03/23/injuries_illness_hand_protection_training.aspx

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