According to the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hand injuries account for 1,080,000 emergency department visits by workers per year in the United States. Hand injuries resulting from cuts and puncture cost the construction industry $382 million each year; this injury figure is second only to back strain and sprain injury, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). If that were not enough to demonstrate the need for improving hand protection in the workplace, consider the following:
• 70 percent of workers who experienced hand injuries were not wearing gloves
• The remaining 30 percent of injured workers did wear gloves, but experienced injuries because the gloves were inadequate, damaged or wrong for the type of hazard present.
To help prevent such workplace injuries, OSHA’s hand protection (PPE) standard mandates that employers select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when employees’ hands are exposed to the following hazards:
• skin absorption of harmful substances
• severe cuts or lacerations
• severe abrasions or punctures
• chemical burns or thermal burns
• harmful temperature extremes
Selecting the right glove
A Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety study found that wearing gloves reduces hand injury risk by 60 percent. But to get workers to actually wear gloves, employers must first learn how to choose the right glove for the workers’ needs. In the past, many construction companies provided workers with cotton or leather gloves to protect them from cuts, puncture and abrasion. Today, advanced technology has resulted in hand protection products that meet specific needs while enhancing worker comfort, dexterity and productivity. Hand protection products are available, for example, that offer up to 300 percent more abrasion and cut resistance than leather gloves. Gloves are also offered that are form-fitted with an ergonomic design that enhances comfort and allows workers to keep the gloves on throughout the day.
In addition to the physical harm that hand injuries pose to workers, these injuries also take a financial toll. The average hand injury claim has now exceeded $6,000, with each lost time workers compensation claim reaching nearly $7,500, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Safety Council. The overall drain on employee productivity becomes apparent; especially when you consider that there are about 110,000 estimated lost time hand injuries every year. While glove use is not the only way to protect against hand injuries, it is a crucial component of any injury prevention program. Finding ways to help workers comply with glove wearing protocols will go a long way toward creating a safer and more productive work environment.
Source: NECA/IBEW Electrical Training Center www.nietc.org