Safety: Hand Injuries in the Workplace
13 May 2021
Hand injuries are one of the most common causes of workplace injury in NSW. These injuries occur when hands come become caught, crushed, jammed or pinched in or between machinery and materials, are burned on hot machinery or materials, or come in contact with things such as power tools and knives.
They can occur quickly and have devastating and potentially long-lasting consequences for the worker, including nerve damage, restricted use/loss of use of the injured hand, or loss of the hand.
Diverted attention, inadequate training, and unsafe work practices all contribute to the prevalence of hand injuries. This means it is vital that workers remain diligent and focused on their tasks to reduce the risk of injury, no matter how many times you have done them before.
Here are some tips to keep your hands safe in the workplace:
- Stay off your phone – don’t try to talk, text, check notifications, or look at/engage with social media while you are working! This also applies to the use of smart watches, which often perform the same functions as your mobile phone.
- If you need to speak with your supervisor or colleague/s, stop what you are doing and shut off any tools/machinery you are using before engaging in conversation.
- Concentrate on what you’re doing – don’t let your mind wander because you’re distracted by a loud noise, bored, worried about something, or just thinking about what you’re going to do after work or on the weekend.
- Don’t rush – everyone feels pressure on the job from time to time, but rushing leads to stress, which compromises your ability to focus and work safely.
- Speak up if you aren’t comfortable or confident completing a task. This applies whether you are still learning how to perform a task, learning to use the machinery associated with a task, haven’t used that machinery or previously attempted that task, or the machinery isn’t safe to use (i.e. appropriate guards are not in place, grips are cracked/broken).
- Be familiar with how the tools or machinery you are using work – make sure you know how the different settings/functions work, and how to stop it in an emergency, before you turn it on.
- Wear PPE – if gloves are required to operate the tool or machinery you are using, or to move certain materials, you must ensure you do so! If none is available don’t use it or do it.
- Don’t muck around – having some friendly banter at work can be fun and great for team morale, but not if it leads to injury. Don’t play with tools or machinery – they should only ever be used for their intended purpose.
- Know your limits – if something is too heavy for you to lift or move safely, ask for help. Don’t persevere because you’re worried you’ll look weak or incompetent, or because you want to impress others.