How Can Workplaces Reduce Hand Injuries?March 18, 2022
More than a million U.S. workers suffer hand injuries that require emergency medical treatment. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says those injuries result in an average of six days away from work.
That adds up to more than six million days and about 48 million work hours of lost productivity. Whenever a worker misses at least three days because of injuries suffered while on the job, Workers’ Compensation benefits are available. The benefits pay for injury costs and replace two-thirds of lost income.
Although Workers’ Compensation is an effective safety net, prevention is the best solution to workplace hand injuries. The following offers a more in-depth look at how to initiate effective prevention of workplace hand injuries.
Equipping, Training, and Warning Workers about Hand Dangers
Many workers who suffer hand injuries say they need better hand protection that protects against cuts and puncture wounds. They also say additional safety training could help to reduce the number of accidents that cause hand injuries.
The injured workers’ collective opinion on how to more effectively prevent hand injuries agrees with commonly cited methods for lowering the injury rates. Employers have three primary ways to greatly reduce hand injuries among workers. Those three ways are through:
- Personal protective equipment
- Awareness of potential dangers
- Training to safely operate equipment
The correct equipment includes gloves that do a better job of resisting cuts and punctures. It also includes better cutting equipment and improved safety equipment that protects workers, such as handguards and safety barriers.
Workers need to be aware of potential dangers that might injure their hands. Also, they need to be trained in how to safely operate the equipment. Something as basic as never cutting toward the body and always cutting away from it is an example of safe operations training.
New hires are especially vulnerable to suffering hand injuries. They are trying to learn the job and are more prone to making mistakes. The more common hand injuries occur within a particular occupation, the more important it is to train new workers in how to prevent them.
Follow the OSHA Hand Safety Standards
The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has published standards for workplace hand safety. That OSHA has a standard for hand safety is cause enough to take the matter seriously.
OSHA Standard 1910.138(a) says that job providers shall require their workers to use the appropriate equipment to protect their hands. The equipment must be worn whenever workers’ hands are exposed to:
- Harmful substances
- Severe cuts, lacerations, and punctures
- Chemical and thermal burns
- Harmful temperature extremes
OSHA Standard 1910.138(b) says employers must provide or otherwise require suitable hand protection. A close examination of the potential dangers related to the work to be done should determine the appropriate hand protection.
It is important for the employer to supply or require workers to wear suitable hand protection. If the protection does not work as intended, the employer could be liable for damages.
Those damages should be covered by Workers’ Compensation. If so, the worker forgoes the right to sue the employer in exchange for accepting Workers’ Compensation benefits.
Common Ways in Which Workers Injure Their Hands and Fingers
The more than one million hand injuries that occur annually have mostly similar causes. The common causes represent virtually constant dangers that workers often face daily.
Pinch points are among the most consistent causes of hand injuries. They occur when something that folds or moves could catch your hand. Pinch points could crush bones, cut or tear the skin, or amputate one or more fingers.
Entanglements also could cause severe injuries, including an avulsion injury. An Avulsion happens when the skin is torn from the muscle or bone. It also is called a degloving injury.
Automated machinery and rotating parts could crush or amputate the hand or fingers. They also could cause avulsion injuries if a worker gets a hand or other body part trapped against a rotating or moving part. In addition, extreme temperatures could cause a hand injury that permanently disables a worker.
Common Types of Hand Injuries that Workers Suffer
Common work dangers often result in similar injuries. OSHA says workers could suffer one or more of several common types of hand injuries while working:
- Crush injuries
- Avulsion or detachment
The injuries could create temporary disabilities that heal thoroughly in a relatively short time. They also could cause permanent disabilities that render part of all of the hand useless.
Whenever workplace hand injuries occur that require medical treatment, Workers’ Compensation should cover the costs. The costs include lost income while the employee is healing and incapable of working.
Effective Ways to Protect against Hand Injuries
OSHA says nearly three-fourths of the injuries could be prevented with the use of suitable safety gear. That includes gloves that resist cuts and punctures and protect against extreme temperatures. Safety shields could help to prevent entanglements and crush injuries.
Thorough safety training helps to ensure workers know how to use safety equipment. It also helps to ensure they know how to safely operate work equipment to prevent hand injuries.
OSHA says employers need to emphasize the importance of safety to prevent hand injuries and other mishaps on a daily basis. Even a short reminder to be careful and watch out for particular dangers could help to prevent accidents.
OSHA also suggests employers regularly review the tools provided to do the work. Newer and safer tools might be available that make the job safer to do. They might even improve the amount and quality of work done.
High Cost of Worker Hand Injuries
There is a very small cost associated with training workers. That cost usually is the amount of time that it takes to properly train workers. Ensuring they have the proper safety equipment and know how to use it produces small costs for employers.
When workers suffer hand injuries, the costs are much higher. The National Safety Council (NSC) in 2011 said the average cost to treat a laceration on a worker’s hand was $10,000. Stitches added another $2,000 in direct costs.
The NSC says those costs increased dramatically if one or more tendons are severed. A severed tendon cost $70,000 to treat in 2011. That includes the initial medical treatment, follow-up procedures, and physical therapy.
The NSC cost data is more than a decade old. It is safe to say the amounts have gone up because of inflation and other cost increases.
Indirect Costs Affect Workers and Employers
Medical costs are the direct costs of hand injuries that affect workers as well as the employers who must pay the medical costs. Indirect costs affect workers and their employers as well.
Injured workers miss an average of six days because of hand injuries. Workers’ Compensation should cover the medical costs and lost wages. However, the compensation is less than the worker would have gotten by working without an injured hand.
If the worker suffers a permanent disability, the indirect costs rise dramatically. A permanent disability often triggers a permanent reduction in earnings ability.
Employers also suffer significant indirect costs when one or more workers suffer a hand injury. A supervisor will have to investigate the injury and possibly implement changes to improve safety.
Meanwhile, lost productivity, possibly damaged machinery, and lower workplace morale create very real but indirect costs for job providers. So do the costs of hiring and training replacement workers.
If any customers wind up with orders that are late or go unfulfilled, the indirect costs could be very significant. That is why it is very important for employers to properly equip and train workers in job safety.
If a hand injury does occur while working, a Workers’ Compensation claim should be filed and paid in a timely manner. If that does not happen, the services of an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer might be needed.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help Workers Recover from Their Injuries
If you have sustained a hand injury from an accident at work, reach out to the Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. Our experienced legal team will be your advocate so that you receive the benefits for which you are entitled. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent clients throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.