We use our hands for virtually all of the tasks we do at work. Because of how often we use our hands, they are more susceptible to injury. Hand injuries are the second leading type of injury on the job in the United States. Pinch points are a hazard that leads to crushed-by injuries, which is a major type of injury to the hands and fingers on the job.
Hand Injury Statistics (source: www.bls.gov)
- There are 110,000 lost time cases due to hand injuries annually.
- 1 million workers are treated in an ER for hand injuries annually.
- 70% of workers who experienced a hand injury were not wearing gloves.
- Another 30% of victims had gloves on, but they were damaged or inadequate for the work task.
Three Common Types of Hand Injuries
- Lacerations are the most common type of hand injury. Lacerations are due to sharp objects or tools. Often inadequate gloves are used during an activity that involves a sharp tool. A glove with Kevlar is effective in protecting the hand against a cutting or slicing motion. A straight stab motion can still easily penetrate these gloves. Caution needs to be used when using any tool that can easily penetrate the skin.
- Crush injuries are usually due to employees placing their hands in the line of fire between two objects or in a rotating piece of equipment. Pinch points on equipment or tools also commonly lead to crush injuries.
- Fractures occur when there is a sudden blow to the bones in the fingers or hands. Motor vehicle accidents often cause fractures to the hands. Another common cause of fractures is an individual extending out their hands to catch themselves from a fall.
Defining Pinch Points
A pinch point is defined as any point where it is possible for a body part to be caught between moving and stationary portions of equipment. Pinch points are found in many places throughout the workplace. Equipment maintenance, lifting materials, assembly line work, and hooking up trailers are just a few tasks where pinch points are a common hazard.
Safeguards to Avoid Pinch Points and Hand Injuries
- Eliminate the hazard by ensuring proper guarding is in place.
- Pay attention to where your hands are around any moving parts or any objects that have the potential to move.
- Do not place your hands where you cannot see them.
- Wear the proper gloves for whatever work task you are completing to reduce the amount of damage to your hands if they do end up in the line of fire.
- When working on equipment or machinery, ensure they are properly locked out and tagged out to prevent unexpected start-up.
- Properly block any equipment or parts where stored energy could be released.
- When working with others, make sure to communicate to let each other know if you are out of the line of fire before moving objects or starting up the equipment.
Often times it is not the obvious pinch points that injure a person, such as a conveyor belt or a piece of moving machinery. Many times, tasks as simple as shutting a truck door will end up in a pinch point injury if someone isn’t paying attention. It is important to be mindful of your hands while completing any task. Your hands are your most valuable tools!