Protecting our most valuable tool

In the last few months there have been an increase in hand and finger injuries, one of the most common categories of injury to MTA apprentices, and comprising over 60% of the injuries sustained. 
Attached to this report is a body injury map that shows the current injuries sustained by apprentices.
Hand injuries can be traumatic and remove a person’s ability to work and perform the activities of daily living. The following are types of injuries that can occur:
  • Lacerations/Cuts
  • Crush injuries
  • Severed: Hand, Thumb, Fingers
We take so many things for granted these days. When you sustain an injury, this is when it really hits home and reality sets in. It’s hard to peel a banana without your thumb. It’s hard to button your shirt without the use of your thumb. It’s difficult to drive your car with stitches in your hand.
One of the most significant type of injuries sustained to the hands have been lacerations. A majority of these injuries have been significant with a trip to the GP resulting in stitches. A few have been quite traumatic resulting in time lost from the work place.
During the investigation of these injuries, there have been several causes identified based around taking short cuts, such as the following:
  • Not following procedures
  • Incorrect tool use
  • Lack of personal protective equipment
Taking short cuts is fraught with danger when a procedure is not followed or you think you can do it faster another way. Usually when you think you are doing the wrong thing you are!!!
In this industry, time pressures are all around us as businesses need to keep up with customer requirements and demands. So naturally there is always going to be added pressure on the worker to get the job done in a satisfactory manner and time frame. However, where there is a procedure, it must be followed, as it is there for many reasons, including your safety.
Some of the short cuts that have been taken are:
  • A utility knife blade has been used independently of the actual holder tool
  • Using the opposite hand to hold a part whilst attempting to drill a hole
  • Attempting to sharpen a drill bit using the side wall of a bench grinder
  • Not wearing gloves whilst removing bolts with sharp threads
  • Attempting to cut plastic wrap that is bunched up with fingers underneath
  • Lifting a item of plant off a pallet and had it crushed when placing back down
Most hand injuries are preventable. We use our hands regularly, and they are often taken for granted, and it needs to be recognised the danger our hands are put in.
There are a number of things workers and employers can do to prevent hand injuries.
What we need to do is increase awareness and responsibility by:
  • Being aware of your surroundings
  • Have signs indicating the risk
  • Know what PPE is required or not required at certain workstations?
  • Understand your level of experience operating machinery & equipment.
  • Ask whether you would benefit from training?
Some prevention strategies to be followed:
  • Wear the required gloves when you work with chemicals, rough surfaces, sharp instruments. Keep the gloves clean and in good condition, and replace them if they are worn out or damaged.
  • Keep eyes on task and hands at all times to ensure your hands are not in the line of fire.
  • Always wear appropriate PPE when operating machinery being mindful of the fact that gloves can be caught in some machinery & pull the hand into danger.
  • Ensure long sleeve shirts are buttoned or cuffed securely in place.
  • Turn off equipment at power source before placing hand in danger.
  • Don’t wear rings, watches, bracelets or necklaces when working on machinery or anything the jewellery might get caught on.
  • Use your machine to do the job it was intended for.
  • Before you use a machine that is guarded, make sure the guard is in place and the machine itself is working well.
  • Remember, machines are guarded for a very good reason. Never put your fingers or your hands through, under, over, or around the guard. NEVER remove a guard.
Types of Manual Hand Tools and what to be aware of:
  • These may include: hammers, screw drivers, chisels, knives, wrenches and more.
  • Important to inspect the tool before use to ensure that they are in a working order.
  • Ensure to use the tool for what they are designed for.
  • When necessary use a vice or clamp instead of holding it secure with a hand.
House Keeping is very important to ensure not only the prevention of slips, trips and falls, but ensure everything has a home and being aware of your surroundings:
  • Keep your work area clean and organised so you don’t place a hand in an unknown area and cut yourself.
  • When using sharp instruments it is essential that you place the instruments back in their cases, and away from harming yourself and others.
  • Don’t push trash down into a bin with your fingers-someone else may have thrown in broken glass, hardware, or a solvent-soaked rag or towel.
  • When picking up metal objects bear in mind that these objects may be hot!
Remember Safety is everybody’s responsibility and if there are aspects of the job that are not understood…..STOP THE TASK AND ASK!!!
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