By Andrew Hobbs
THESE injuries account for almost 13.5% of all serious workers’ compensation claims, but they are way down the priority list for many companies.
About 14,140 people had to take more than one week off work because of workplace injuries to the hand, fingers and thumb in 2015-16, according to Safe Work Australia (SWA).
Only back injuries were more common in Australian workers over that 12-month period, with serious hand injuries making up:
- 57.8% of injuries caused by hitting objects;
- 37.7% of injuries caused by being hit by moving objects; and
- 30.6% of injuries caused by heat and electricity (with another 9.1 per cent of these injuries to the forearm).
According to a 2013 SWA report, Work-Related Injuries Resulting in Hospitalisation 2006-2009 (Report), injuries to the hands and wrists made up 38% of all work-related hospital admissions over a three-year period.
These injuries were “by far” the most common, with 24% of all injuries relating to fingers and thumbs alone.
Amputations of part of the hand or wrist made up 4.9% of the total 5% of hospitalisations over the three-year period.
The most common causes of these injuries (including serious lacerations and amputations) are:
- using knives and other sharp-edged appliances;
- operating powered machinery (that was not properly guarded);
- using a powered hand tool or appliance that was not properly guarded or that locked.
7 tips to reduce hand injuries in your workplace
Use these tips to control the risk of hand injuries occurring in your workplace:
- put up posters warning of the risk in hazardous areas;
- conduct toolbox meetings discussing the hazards and risk controls;
- build awareness using noticeboard items;
- ensure your workers are using the best tool for each task – and ensure the tools are in good working condition;
- ensure gloves and other PPE is appropriate for the task, in good condition and is being replaced when damaged;
- ensure you have guards over all entrapment points and rotating or moving parts of powered equipment – and make sure to isolate equipment when servicing or adjusting; and
- make sure those using equipment are trained for the task, including in safe use of tools. For example, train workers to pull spanners towards themselves and to cut away from themselves when using knives and sharp implements.
The Health & Safety Handbook contains a number of chapters to help you address possible health and safety threats you may not have identified yet in your workplace. And more importantly – helps you with the practical steps you need to take to reduce that risk, if you can’t eliminate it completely.
From hazard identification, risk assessment, workplace design, personal protective equipment, plant safety, construction – and the list goes on – the handbook will have what you need to find, assess and control the hidden risks to your workers such as the one looked at today – hand injuries. These types of injuries cause lost time and compensation claims that your business will suffer for.