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7 Simple Steps to Better Hand Safety

April 8, 2015
safety, hand safety, 7 steps, ehs, health

What are you doing to keep your workforce safe?

Do you simply give them a pair of cut-resistant gloves and tell them to be careful?

If so, you might be overlooking key steps to preventing workplace hand injuries long before your employees even walk through the door.

Step 1: Eliminate the Hazard

The first step is to see if there are any hazards that you can remove with engineering or job controls. According to OSHA, many industries have found successful ways to eliminate hazards and improve employee safety.

Of course, not every hazard will be able to be eliminated. But that's exactly what the six remaining steps are for.

Step 2: Upgrade Equipment

Using outdated equipment can increase the danger of a hazard that can't otherwise be eliminated. Assess your workplace equipment with the help of a safety expert to determine whether upgrades or updates could help prevent injuries.

Step 3: Re-Engineer Equipment

Engineering or administrative controls always should be considered first when seeking to eliminate workplace hazards. Some examples of this are moving employees away from noisy equipment to eliminate noise exposure, installing two-handed safety control interlocks and light curtains to stop equipment from running when hands are in a danger zone or using ventilation systems to help control or eliminate air contaminants.

Step 4: Training

Think outside the box when it comes to hand safety training. The secret to training success is to make training interesting enough to be memorable. During its hand safety training, U.S. Steel wanted to demonstrate to employees how serious hand injuries can be. To do this, employees were asked to perform simple daily tasks, like opening a jar of peanut butter or putting on a work shirt, without using their fingers or hands.

Step 5: Enforce Policies and Procedures

Talking about and training for safety does little good if there's no method of enforcing policies and procedures. And although repercussions may be a necessary tactic for those who ignore safety rules, it's rewarding good, safe behavior that EHS professionals find to be the most effective method for encouraging compliance.

Step 6: Provide Adequate PPE

Recent advancements in technology make gloves today lighter, more comfortable, more breathable and safer than ever before. For example, ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) is 15 times stronger than steel and offers level 5 cut protection. New materials like UHMWPE feel cool, comfortable and lightweight, while providing resistance to cuts, abrasions, chemicals, water, humidity and UV light.

Step 7: Evaluate and revise

Safety excellence is an ongoing journey. Make it a point to evaluate what's working and what isn't and revise your method accordingly.

Take time to review your safety successes and failures, determine what's driving them, and revise your safety strategy at least once a year.

Like all safety goals, achieving zero hand injuries in the workplace takes a commitment. Following the seven steps outlined here, you'll be well on your way and your workforce will be safer, happier and more productive as a result.

Read more on hand safety at EHS Today.

EHS Today is an NED companion site within Penton's Manufacturing & Supply Chain Group.