Workers who want to keep counting on all 10 fingers should take these precautions to prevent ring avulsion and other hand injuries.
It’s not difficult to spot hazards that can harm the hands on a construction site. They include everything from saws that can slice through fingers to piles of block that can smash bones to chemicals that can etch deep burns into the skin. Even wedding rings can pose a risk; if a ring catches on equipment or material, it can actually rip off soft tissue or even the finger. (This type of injury is known as ring avulsion.)
Hand injuries hurt construction workers — many suffer permanent damage — and also contractors, who must deal with the consequences of lost time and higher workers’ comp rates. And it’s not a small problem. Hand injuries account for about 20 percent of disabling workplace injuries according to the National Safety Council. Lacerations are the most common type (63 percent), followed by crushing (13 percent), avulsion (8 percent), punctures (6 percent) and fractures (5 percent).
Many of these injuries are preventable. In a 2015 survey of more than 400 safety professionals, including those in the construction industry, respondents said the top reasons for hand injuries were lack of personal protective equipment or cut-resistant gloves and improper training. Those problems are relatively easy to fix.
There are also workarounds for some hazards. To prevent ring avulsion, you can either ban the wearing of all jewelry on the job or encourage workers who want to wear wedding rings to get silicone bands that will break apart when snagged.
The Construction Industry Safety Group and the Injury Free CEO Forum made preventing hand injuries the focus of their National Safety Week 2017. Their recommendations include:
Analyze the potential hand hazards on the jobsite and develop strategies for avoiding them.
Ask yourself what’s the worst that could happen — and plan for it by providing the right PPE and training workers appropriately. For example, if there’s a small pile of metal debris on a site, they shouldn’t try to scoop it up with their hands; they should use a shovel instead.
Provide the right kind of gloves and make sure workers know when to use them.
Wearing general-purpose gloves is far better than going bare-handed, but workers get the best protection when they wear a glove designed specifically for the work that they’re doing, such as chemical resistant gloves for handling chemicals.
Work gloves come with ACTP (abrasion, cut, tear, puncture) safety ratings. The higher the number on the 1 to 5 scale, the more protection the glove offers. Workers should be trained to consider their task and choose gloves accordingly. Gloves should fit properly to provide the best comfort and protection.
Protect the non-dominant hand, too.
Workers should be aware of their non-dominant hand and protect it as well as the other hand. They should pay attention to situations where either hand could get pinched or trapped.
Emphasize hand safety every day and make everyone on the site responsible for keeping each other safe.
Workers who are distracted or having a bad day may not see or anticipate hazards that could injure their hands. When co-workers are looking out for each other, everyone’s more likely to go home with their hands (and other body parts) intact.
Protecting workers’ hands on the jobsite isn’t complicated or complex. You simply have to use common sense. As Craig Lesurf, vice president of the Walsh Group, put it this way on the Safety Week website:
“The best way to protect your hands is to use your head.”