Know your hazards: Five keys to reduce hand harm in oil fields
It is no secret that safety gloves play a significant role in protecting workers’ hands. In fact, in a study conducted by OSHA, data revealed that 70 percent of workers who suffered hand injuries were not wearing gloves during their accident.
However, gloves are the last line of defense. While it is essential to reinforce the importance of wearing gloves on the job, providing the best hand protection is about more than just the glove.
It is important to identify the potential hazards and elements you will be exposed to in your work environment to understand the best way to protect yourself and your employees. In order to understand what your employees face, go onsite, observe the workplace environment, and perform a hand safety site analysis to determine the most appropriate gloves required for each individual task. Survey the work area, and the workers, looking at it solely from the hand and finger hazard vantage point.
• Is there the potential for blunt-force impact, crush or pinching injuries?
• What about severe abrasions or lacerations to the hand?
• Will your workers be exposed to any elements such as the cold or have the potential to get their hands wet?
Be sure to study the entire work environment when setting a plan to keep your employees’ hands and fingers safe.
Well-defined and communicated policies and procedures outline processes for your employees to easily comply with hand safety objectives. Standardizing gloves can help promote proper glove usage and reduce the likelihood of non-compliance. Additionally, initiating a sign-out process for workers to obtain new gloves can serve as another control to increase awareness and accountability. Controls like these ensure all workers are taking the same steps to ensure optimum hand safety awareness and protection.
Training, communication and employee involvement are key components to keeping hand safety awareness top of mind. Starting with big picture programs down to daily tailgate meetings or toolbox talks, hand safety should be a topic discussed regularly. Employee participation is key, as is variety. If your program does not have the ability to incorporate new ideas or even new materials, it will become stale and mundane. The perfect hand safety awareness program includes information pertinent to specific activities, open dialogues, and actionable tasks that are easily implemented.
In the above-mentioned study by OSHA, it was reported that 30 percent of hand injuries occurred because hand protection was inadequate, damaged or misapplied. Choosing the proper protection is essential to preventing on-site hand injuries.
Select high-performance task- specific hand protection
With the physically demanding and rigorous work performed in the oil field, many of the major oil producers already have outlawed dotted and non-dotted cotton gloves and are requiring high-performance task-specific hand protection. Knowing your environment — and understanding the benefits of the high-performance materials used in each glove type you are considering — is key to understanding the type of hand protection you and your workers will need.
Provide impact- and cut-resistant protection
Critical impact and pinch-point protection is essential to help absorb and disperse blunt-force impact and heavy abrasion-type injuries. Thermal Plastic Rubber (TPR) provides impact protection on top of your hand and down the full length of your fingers. In many cases, the TPR buys critical seconds during an incident to free you from the situation.
Cut- and puncture-resistant gloves consist of highly durable materials that have undergone rigorous testing for endurance and strength. Cut protection is a combination of many factors, and industry standards groups have made tremendous progress in testing and measuring the cut protective performance of gloves and apparel. Certified hand gear falls under the CE EN388 Mechanical Risk Standards classification. Performance measurement involves a rating from 1-4 (puncture, tear and abrasion resistance) and 1-5 (cut resistance), with “1” meeting minimum certification requirements and “5” meeting the highest demands.
When selecting a cut-resistant glove, be sure to carefully consider all the potential hazards your hands may experience in order to ensure the greatest level of protection.
The need to be seen is critical for safety. High-visibility gloves are designed to draw attention to your hands to prevent injuries and fatalities from struck-by hazards and heavy machinery. When a highly visible hand is moving around on equipment, the potential for injury is greatly reduced.
Ensure the proper fit
If your gloves do not fit correctly, they cannot protect correctly. There are many factors to consider when selecting a glove. Ensuring the proper glove fit is just as important as choosing the proper glove type and material for your task. A glove that fits properly conforms to the hand and does not feel too tight or too stiff.
A tight fitting glove can negatively affect fine motor skills, irritate the skin and lead to hand fatigue. On the other hand, a glove that fits too loose can cause a person to execute movements awkwardly and potentially lead to exposure to hazardous elements. Evaluating a glove’s ability to contour to the hand, and properly fit the width of the hand, is key to finding a good fitting glove.
It’s important to purchase durable gloves that are made to last. However, it is just as important to take care of your equipment to ensure it lasts and performs correctly when needed most. Gloves need to be clean to maintain a good grip and provide proper protection. Know how to properly care for each type of glove. Some gloves are machine washable using cool water and a mild detergent. If your glove is made of leather, it will need to be hand washed. All gloves require an air-dry to prolong the life of the palm. Always check your gloves prior to performing a task to ensure they are in prime operating condition.