When it comes to safety on the job site, the risk to your hands shouldn’t be overlooked. The hands are the most frequently injured part of the body. And in the oil and gas industry alone, hand injuries account for about one–third of all accidents.
When most people think of hand injuries, they think of power tools. But hand injuries can be caused by many hazards – from pinch points and sharp objects to corrosives, chemicals, and fires.
Three main reasons for hand injuries:
How can you make sure you’re not a statistic? Here are 7 tips to make sure you’re doing everything you can to protect your hands on the job:
#1: Get the right gear.
The most common personal protective equipment (PPE) for hand safety are gloves and finger guards.
A note on gloves: Whether you’re wearing rubber, leather, or cloth gloves, be sure to choose your glove carefully—each glove type protects your hands from specific hazards. Some questions to ask yourself about the nature of the job that will help you chose your glove:
- What areas of the hand require protection?
- What are the grip requirements?
- Will I need impact resistance?
- Do I need cut resistance?
- Will I need thermal protection?
- Am I handling chemicals?
- Are there abrasion requirements?
#2: Inspect your gear and tools.
Your PPE can only do its job if it’s in good shape. Be sure to inspect your equipment prior to starting work, focusing on holes, tears, or buildup of dirt and other materials. If your gloves aren’t up to snuff, replace them immediately. Consider brightly colored gloves to constantly remind yourself of good hand safety, and change up the color of the gloves often to keep it fresh in your mind.
#3: Know the safety policies and stick to them.
Rules and regs are there for a reason and can help prevent hand injuries when followed. Here are some common ones for hand safety, but be sure to check with your supervisor on the policies specific to your job site:
- “Hands off loads”: This means no one touches a load after it’s been rigged. Instead, use the push tools and tag lines made available to you.
- No jewelry: While rings and watches typically don’t cause accidents, they do greatly increase the severity of the injury.
- No adjustable wrenches: These can slip, which can cause finger and hand injuries.
#4: Be a stickler about knife and blade storage.
Some of the most preventable hand injuries are due to poor storage of knives and blades. Some best practices include:
- Store blades and knives separately from other tools
- Store blades pointing downward
- Put a protective covering over knives being carried
#5: Do some prep work.
Make sure to perform a Job Safety Analysis Worksheet (JSA) before starting the job. This allows you to make note of the hazards in your work environment, such as pinch points, electrical exposure, fatigue, and distraction. You can use this intel to clearly identify pinch points on the job site by painting the hazards a different color or using stickers.
#6: Know your machine guard.
Machine guards provide barriers between you and the dangerous parts of a machine, and are usually put in place by the manufacturer. But a machine guard is only useful if it’s used properly. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and do not remove the guard unless authorized.
#7: Don’t suck it up.
Cuts, scrapes, and punctures can become infected and increase the severity of a wound unnecessarily, so be sure to report injuries and get treated. Make sure to look out for your coworkers, but only respond to first aid situations at your level of training.
For more information about hand safety, check out the following resources:
- Drilling Contractor HSE, “HSE Corner: How to gain the upper hand in finger, hand safety: 10 tips from the industry”
- IADC, “Hand Protection“
- PEC Safety, “Hand Safety”
- United States Department of Labor, “Machine Guarding”
Have questions? Reach out to [email protected]