Hand, Wrist and Finger Safety - Outline
Our hands, wrists and fingers are valuable tools.
- They are involved in just about everything we do.
- As a result, they are exposed to many hazards.
Throughout the day our hands can encounter a number of hazards, such as:
- Machines with heavy or fast moving parts.
- Sharp tools.
- Corrosive materials.
Each year thousands of people suffer unnecessary hand, wrist and finger injuries.
- The initial pain is frequently just the beginning of a long ordeal.
- Treatment is often followed by long recovery.
- Long hours of physical rehabilitation may be required.
After recovering from a hand, wrist or finger injury we may have to work harder to make up for lost production time, as well.
Preventing these types of injuries is not usually difficult.
- First, we must decide to make the effort.
- Learning how our hands, wrists and fingers work is a good starting point.
The hand and wrist are made up of a complex system of bones, soft tissues and skin.
- Twenty-seven bones in all.
- Composed of the wrist, palm and fingers.
Soft tissues bind the bones together.
- Includes muscles, ligaments, tendons and nerves.
- This combination gives the hand power, lets it move and provides "sensation".
The skin provides the hand with a protective cover.
- Also holds the whole system together.
The way the hand is constructed allows us to work efficiently.
- The nerve system lets us perform tasks by touch alone.
- The whole system of hands, wrists and fingers also easily adjusts to different positions.
One of the major "grips" we use in working with our hands, wrists and fingers is the "power grip".
- Curls the fingers and thumb around an object.
- Uses the whole hand to distribute the weight of the object evenly.
- Allows the muscles in the forearms to help with the load.
The "precision grip" is used in different situations.
- Lifts objects by bringing the thumb, middle and index fingers together.
- Used in lighter tasks that demand accuracy.
- Should not be used on heavy objects.
It's important to develop a "safety first" attitude as part of hand, wrist and finger safety.
- The best way to stay safe is to prevent accidents from happening.
- Be aware of hazards that exist in your environment.
- Become familiar with the equipment you use.
- Keep track of work going on around you.
Monitoring your own "state of mind" is also important.
- Concentrate on what you're doing.
- Control your emotions, especially when things aren't going well.
- Stay clear of distractions.
- Learn to pace yourself.
It's important to be aware of all the types of hazards hands, wrists, and fingers are exposed to.
- High speed cutting tools.
- Heavy machinery.
- Extreme heat.
- Other hazards as well.
We must learn to protect ourselves from any hazards found in our work environment.
Tools and machines can be especially dangerous because of their moving parts.
- Hands and fingers can get cut, pinched or crushed.
- Equipment guards and shields should be in place.
- Loose clothing should not be worn (it can get caught up in moving parts and pull hands with it).
Not knowing how to use a machine or tool properly can also lead to an accident.
- Take the time to become familiar with the equipment you use.
- Follow proper operating and maintenance procedures.
Use common sense when you are working.
- Be alert for the unexpected.
- Think ahead.
- Keep track of what your hands, wrists and fingers are doing.
Personal protective equipment is also very important in protecting hands, wrists and fingers.
- Gloves are the most basic piece of personal protective equipment for the hands.
- Choose the glove best suited to the hazards you may encounter.
Light outside work can expose you to a number of common hazards.
- Often involves scratches, blisters or even poison ivy.
- Simple cloth gloves offer good protection in these situations.
Work involving rough surfaces, splinters and sparks can also be a problem.
- Heavy leather gloves are often called for.
- Can shield the hands from bruises, nicks and minor burns.
Operations involving sharp-edged tools also pose problems.
- Can mean painful cuts and scratches.
- Cut-resistant gloves, such as metal mesh, work well here.
Intense heat and flames can cause burn damage to the hands, wrists and fingers.
- Heat-resistant gloves of aluminized fabric or other materials are best here.
Corrosive substances are often encountered in today's work environments.
- Include things such as petroleum products, organic liquids or lyes.
- Can do significant damage to the skin.
- Rubber, vinyl or neoprene gloves provide the best protection.
Some jobs can also expose us to germs and bacteria.
- Disposable plastic gloves are effective in these situations.
"Barrier creams" can offer good protection in certain situations.
- Provide the skin with an invisible coating.
- Protect against minor irritants that gloves may not get.
- Should be applied to clean skin.
- Should be reapplied frequently.
Some jobs require personal protective equipment that is more specialized than gloves.
- Guards or hand-pads offer protection from heat and splintery/abrasive materials.
- Finger guards work against pinching hazards.
- No single type of personal protective equipment works in every situation.
- Unique hazards and procedures require special precautions.
- Consult your supervisor when you have a question.
Choosing the proper type of glove is just the start.
- Factors other than "type" (material) are also important.
- Gloves should be long enough to protect wrists.
- If gloves are too large, they will be clumsy and might get caught in machinery.
- If gloves are too small hands will tire and gloves can wear out prematurely.
Caring for personal protective equipment is also important.
- Proper care extends equipment life.
- Regular washing is important, especially after contamination (keep separate from other wash).
- Inspect and test gloves for rips and other defects.
- Exchange or repair damaged equipment.
Follow recommended storage procedures for your personal protective equipment, as well.
- Keep rubber and plastic gloves away from heat and sunlight.
- Make sure gloves are kept supple and flexible.
"Ergonomic" hazards can also exist in certain jobs.
- "Repetitive motion" situations are the most common.
- They place too much stress on hands, fingers and wrists.
- Often caused by repeated "twisting" motions.
Occasional or short-term exposure to these types of hazards shouldn't cause problems.
- Long exposure over months or years can result in injury.
Reducing the risk of ergonomic injury is often not difficult.
- Alternate different types of work.
- Vary hand, wrist and finger movements.
- Cut down on unnecessary movement.
The arrangement of our work environment can make a big difference, too.
- Put tools and materials within easy reach.
- Adjust the angle of your work surface to keep wrists straight.
Using the neutral, or "shake hands", position is important for avoiding hand and wrist fatigue.
- This position limits strains on muscles and tendons.
- Use it as much as possible.
- Other positions that flex or bend the wrist should be minimized.
- Wrist or elbow rests may be helpful.
Muscle fatigue can also be a problem.
- Occurs when your muscles become tired.
- Can be avoided by varying work routines or "shifting hands".
- Can also result from muscles staying tense and still.
- Make sure to stretch throughout the day to keep muscles loose.
When working with tools, be careful of handles that pinch the hand.
- Can result in injuries affecting nerves, tendons and blood vessels.
Handles with sharp edges or "finger grooves" should also be avoided.
- Select handles that are smooth or padded.
- Look to provide comfort and reduce the risk of pinching.
Handle shape and position are very important too.
- Should be designed so the wrist can be kept straight.
- Should be long enough to extend across the entire palm to avoid pinching nerves.
"Handle spread" is another thing that must be considered.
- Most often involved with wire-cutters and pliers.
- Distance between the fingers and palms should be four to five inches for most sized hands.
"Closed grip" tools have their own handle considerations.
- Most commonly encountered in hammers, files, etc.
- Handle diameter should be no more than two inches.
- The aim is to distribute the weight of the tool across the entire palm.
Power tools have special considerations.
- Many problems are ergonomic in nature.
- Trigger switches should allow use of middle finger or thumb (rather than index finger).
- Allows index finger to help balance the tool without the additional stress of pressing the trigger.
Tools with excessive vibration should be avoided.
- Rapid movement combined with the way a tool is held can cause several problems.
- Can damage circulation, pinched nerves and stressed tendons.
- "Insulated" gloves can help absorb vibrations.
Hand, Wrist & Finger Safety