Hand safety in the workplace is one of the most important aspects of Health & Safety. 40% of workplace accidents involve a worker's hands and 70% of hand injuries occur because the worker has removed their safety gloves.
Staggering, isn't it!?
Keeping your workforce's hands safe is everyone's responsibility, and it can make a huge difference to your workplace safety stats. Hand safety at work doesn't need to be a chore. With just 3 steps you can create a hand protection programme that works.
- 3 steps to safer hands
- Step 1: Understand the problem
- Step 2: Take Action
- Step 3: Make Continuous Checks
The first step involves gathering all the information about the accidents, near misses and injuries that occurred in your workplace, and filter all accidents involving the hands.
You might find this data in your accident book, or you might already have it stored digitally. Breaking it down into a simple spreadsheet really helps understand what is going on. Add columns for date, type of injury (cut, burn, crush, fracture etc), location, tools being used, environmental factors (was there Ice, Rain or Blazing Sun) and employee ID.
If you have a Health and Safety department or H&S consultant, they should really be doing this anyway. If not, it is likely down to you.
With this data, you will be able to answer these questions:
- What are the most common hand injuries?
- How did the injuries happen? (Can you put it down to handling tools, chemical exposure, an individual?)
- In what environmental conditions did injuries occur?
- Where are hand injuries happening
By doing this, you will get a good and quick idea of where there are Health & Safety issues at play. You will gain an understanding of the exact types of injuries happening to workers, where they are happening and what jobs are most risky.
With this data you should be able to nail down the specific hazards to hands, what practices are most likely to result in an accident and find any PPE requirements that may need changing.
Workers should always be supplied with gloves and PPE that provide adequate levels of cut protection, abrasion resistance, vibration resistance or whatever they need. Should hand protection practices be failing, you should investigate further to try and eliminate as much risk as possible.
XAMAX® offer free advice in hand protection to our customers - perhaps give us a ring if you're unsure what you need.
Now you need to shift your focus onto doing something about what you've learned. Focus on training the workforce in the standards of safe handling and hand protection and include any new information you have gathered from step 1. Explaining why you are implementing new changes, or enforcing standards will help you get your points across.
You should make sure your instructions are clear on implementing your safety programme. Include:
- Which safety gloves should be worn for which jobs and why
- Correct use and care of safety gloves
- What checks will be in place to ensure compliance
- Any procedures for tracking PPE usage
Make sure everyone uses the correct protection for the job at hand and that everyone understands they have a responsibility to work safely.
A good way of reinforcing the training is with an awareness campaign internally. Posters, flyers and inclusion in the company newsletter will help your hand safety messages drive home.
Ensure some discussion is included in your team meetings and soon workers will be discussing it between themselves. Every little reminder helps drive down your incident rate.
By step 3 you should have a change in safety culture, especially around workers protecting their hands. Everyone should be adhering to the safety guidelines. It is now time to monitor results.
Perform regular safety audits for hand protection PPE and keep records of your findings.
Create a checklist of requirements for each job to be completed before the work starts.
Provide simple means of reporting hazards for workers to report concerns. This gives the workforce ownership over their own safety.
Ensure line-managers help reinforce the need for hand protection.
However you do it, your objective is to ensure everyone involved has a full understanding of the need for hand protection, ensure they understand the procedures and ensure they understand they are for the safety of everyone.
You're done, but it never ends.
Taking these 3 steps as a basic starting point towards improving your workforce's hand safety, you should start to see injuries and incident rates fall. To know that, you will need to make regular records and compare them, probably monthly.
With luck, your rates will continue downward, but if you see a spike you will be able to act much faster than if you didn't measure.