Most people take their hands for granted. Workers in California and elsewhere wear hard hats to protect their heads and harnesses to arrest falls, but some never pause to think about the hazards of having their hands or fingers crushed. If you are one of them, you would be wise to imagine your life without your hands. A good piece of advice, regardless of the industry in which you earn your income, is never to put your hands where you cannot see them.
Safety authorities say approximately 125,000 workers nationwide suffer caught-in or crushed-by injuries each year. This number includes all industries, from construction sites to offices and big-rig operators.
Here’s how to protect your hands
If you become familiar with the various hazards in your workplace that could cause cuts, bruises and mangled or amputation injuries to your hands, you can take the necessary precautions to mitigate the risks. The term used for these hazards is pinch points, referring to anything that involves physical forces that can catch, crush or pull in body parts.
Assess the risks and remain focused
Risk assessment is crucial before the start of any task. If you identify potential dangers, you can plan the necessary steps to avoid crushing injuries. Be aware that losing focus can lead to losing a hand or several fingers. While daydreaming, participating in horseplay or multitasking, you could deal with distractions and be a victim of one of those workplace accidents that happen in the blink of an eye.
Mind what you wear to work
When you dress for work, avoid loose or too-long sleeves and pants that could catch in pinch points. If you wear protective gloves, make sure they fit tightly. Dangling jewelry and long hair pose the same risks, and it is a good idea to tuck ponytails and braids into clothing.
Common crush hazards
Along with vehicles, forklifts and machinery, other crush hazards exist in all work sites. Take care in the following situations:
- Be alert when you use powered doors or other powered equipment. Avoid placing any body part between, under or against energized equipment.
- Beware of catching your hands in file drawers and doors.
- Before lifting or carrying heavy crates, boxes or other heavy objects, test the weight. Ask for help rather than risking the pinching of your fingers and toes if you should accidentally drop the object or if it slips when you put it down.
- Always make use of available material-handling devices when you move heavy or bulky objects.
- Be alert when you use machinery with rotating shafts, rollers, conveyors or other moving parts.
- Make sure to de-energize machines before reaching in to remove blockages or when you repair or maintain them.
- You can refuse to work with machinery that lacks the necessary guards. The same applies when barriers that are necessary to prevent contact with moving parts are damaged.
You might identify even more pinch point hazards that are unique to your job.
How will you cope after a catastrophic injury?
Your hands are irreplaceable, and losing even one finger can prevent you from returning to the same occupation. Fortunately, the California workers’ compensation insurance program offers extensive benefits for victims of work-related injuries. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can assist with the navigation of a benefits claim to ensure you receive benefits to cover vocational training along with compensation for medical expenses and lost wages.