According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 110,000 lost-time hand injuries in the U.S. each year. OSHA estimates that 71% of all hand injuries could be prevented with the appropriate use of PPE, specifically safety gloves.
Hand safety matters! Follow these tips to reduce risks and better protect your hands.
1. Choose the Right Glove for the Job
The wide variety of glove options, even within a single facility, can be confusing. Different gloves are designed to provide optimal cut, impact, heat, chemical and abrasion resistance for specific scenarios and exposures. Wearing the wrong glove could be more dangerous than the hazard itself. Make sure you know the intended purpose of each glove and always use the right glove for the task at hand.
2. Use Gloves as Intended and Don’t Take Them Off
If you feel that you need more tactility or dexterity while wearing your gloves, or if your gloves are uncomfortable, talk to your safety manager. Don’t attempt to do your job without wearing them. It’s likely that an alternative glove will provide you with the dexterity and comfort you need, without sacrificing protection. Your safety manager will help identify a solution.
3. Ensure a Proper Fit
A poorly fitting glove is a dangerous glove. A glove that is too large will decrease dexterity and increase fatigue because your hand has to work harder to keep it in place. A glove that is too small will restrict movement, create discomfort, and cause excess perspiration. Know your glove size. Measure your hands and be sure to select gloves in the right size. If you can’t find gloves that fit you comfortably, talk to your safety manager.
4. Know When to Replace a Glove
All gloves, even reusable gloves, need to be replaced. Follow guidelines for the number of uses or number of hours each glove should be worn and pay attention to your gloves for wear and tear. Examine your gloves before every shift, looking for snags, pulls, and peeling. If you see thin spots, holes, pulls, tears or excessive saturation, discard of it immediately and use a new pair.
5. Follow Donning and Doffing Procedures
It’s important to don and doff safety gloves carefully, in order to fully protect your skin. Always put your safety gloves on after donning coveralls, goggles, sleeves or other PPE, and be sure to put them on before you are exposed to any chemicals, contamination, or dangerous equipment and tasks. When it’s time to remove your gloves, be careful not to come in contact with any hazards. Follow guidelines for safe doffing, and be sure to dispose of your gloves appropriately if they are single-use, or clean and store them appropriately if they are reusable.
6. Remove Jewelry from Hands and Wrists
Remove rings and bracelets before donning your gloves. You might not notice it, but even low-profile jewelry under your glove can warp the fit and affect a glove’s protection and dexterity. The sharp edges of ring settings and bracelet clasps are particularly dangerous because they can create snags, pulls and punctures. The smallest tug or piercing on the interior of your glove can significantly increase your risk of a hand injury.
7. Be Alert and Aware
The risk of hand injuries increases substantially when workers are tired or distracted. Fatigue creates slower reaction times and clouded judgement, whereas distraction may lead to mistakes. Pay attention to your mind and body for signs of fatigue or distraction. Stay alert and focused. Be sure that your hand movements are intentional and deliberate. Take breaks, especially if you’re performing a repetitive task, to give yourself a chance to refresh. Periodically stretch your hands to give your muscles and tendons the opportunity to recover. Never perform your job under the influence of drugs or alcohol and understand the side effects of prescription drugs.
8. Use Tools and Machinery Properly
Be sure to receive training for the safe use of all tools, machinery and equipment and always follow operating guidelines. Don’t assume that you know how to use tools or equipment if you haven’t been trained, and never hesitate to ask questions. Identify safety features and emergency off switches. Don’t remove safety guards and never perform maintenance or repairs while equipment is running. Inspect your tools and equipment before starting your shift to make sure that they are in good working condition, and store and maintain your tools properly.
9. Avoid Hazardous Actions
Regardless of the job, certain actions should always be avoided, even when wearing your safety gloves. Never put your hands near sharp or moving parts, and never insert them into places you can’t see. Don’t do something that you know is dangerous to save time or effort, and don’t rely on your reflexes to ensure your safety.
10. Report Injuries Immediately
If you experience an injury, seek medical assistance immediately. Don’t delay. Even minor injuries should be reported and addressed as soon as possible. Never wait to see if pain, bleeding or discomfort will subside. The severity of injuries and long-term impact on hand wellness can be significantly reduced if incidents are evaluated and treated right away. Also discuss close calls, misses, and injuries that nearly occurred with your manager so that you can identify the best way to avoid risks in the future.
By following these tips, you can improve safety and protect your most valuable tool – your hands.