Safety Thoughts: Hands and Fingers

We use our hands in almost every physical task we perform, both at work and in our domestic lives: grasping, probing, pushing, pulling, lifting, carrying, and holding. Our hands and fingers are also central to our sense of touch.

Because of their great versatility, our hands are exposed to, and susceptible to, a wide range of injuries. These include sprains, burns and skin irritations, vibration white finger, “de-gloving injuries”, punctures, lacerations, fractures and crushing injuries.

Studies of workplace injuries carried out in Europe, Australia and the USA suggest that as many as 38% of all injuries sustained at work involve hands or fingers. Approximately 75% of industrial injuries in the USA which resulted in partial disability involved the hands. Among the leading causes of hand and finger injuries are failure to follow procedures, using the wrong tool for the job, lack of attention, and failure to wear personal protective equipment.

The loss of a finger, thumb or hand will almost certainly mean the end of your seafaring career.

HAND INJURIES ARE PREVENTABLE!

  • Always use gloves where appropriate
  • Always switch off and isolate machinery before starting work
  • Allow hot surfaces to cool down before starting work on them
  • Never put your hand into rotating machinery
  • Never place your hands under heavy objects
  • Do not wrap ropes that may come under tension around your hand
  • When using drills, lathes and cutting machinery always ensure that the material being worked on is properly secured and not held in the hand
  • Protect your skin from harmful substances – use gloves or barrier creams – and read the safety data sheet before handling chemicals
  • Wash and dry your hands thoroughly after coming into contact with any potentially harmful substances
  • Take great care with doors and hatches, particularly in rough weather
  • Always stow knives and sharp tools correctly when not in use
  • Never wear rings whilst working onboard – Even a ring that fits your finger perfectly poses a hazard. If the ring is forced off or breaks, it may pull the flesh from the finger (a “de-gloving”) or even amputate it
  • Ensure power tools are in good condition and that the right tool is used for each job. Change your grip from time to time and take frequent breaks to avoid vibration “white finger”
  • Always look where you are putting your hands!

REMEMBER:

Your safety is in your hands, don’t just cross your fingers and hope for the best – TH!NK LSR!

Peter Chilman, QSE Manager