Hand injuries make up fully 50% of injury incidents in the oil and gas injury, and at some facilities, it’s as high as 80%. That’s an unsettling statistic because the human hand is complex and takes a long time to heal. A major injury can impair its use for a lifetime.
However, injuries to the finger, wrist, and hand are also some of the most preventable types of injuries for oil and gas companies. With proper safety equipment and training, risks are minimized.
The Risk of Hand Injury
A quarter million U.S. workers encounter hand injuries every year. The causes of the injuries often divided into two types: direct and indirect.
Direct causes are sources of injury that are obvious and easily-attributable, like broken equipment. Indirect causes are often harder to pin down, like an employee wearing jewelry or feeling too tired to pay attention.
Common direct causes:
- Unprotected machinery
- Faulty or broken equipment
- Failure to use push-sticks, guards, or kill switches
- Not following lockout/tagout procedures
- Improper storage and handling of substances
Common indirect causes:
- Loose-fitting clothing and jewelry
- Incorrect glove type
- Repetitive motions
Equipment and machines are obvious sources of risk, but there’s another major contributor to hand injuries: chemicals. Anything that is an irritant to the skin is capable of causing a serious hand injury, depending on exposure amount and length.
Corrosive chemicals can severely damage hands. Blistering, burning, and skin loss happen instantaneously. Pain is intense. Corrosion can be so severe, scarring permanently limits the use of the hands and requires ongoing help from hand surgeons and rehab therapists.
Another non-equipment risk is temperature extremes. The oil and gas industry deals with all kinds of weather and on-site temperature issues. The hands are sensitive to extreme hot and cold, so proper protection is important.
There’s also the risk of electrical shock and burns, which can cause hand injuries plus body-wide damage. Electrical shocks are fairly uncommon common in day-to-day life, but 93.8% occur in industrial work settings and cause 1,000 deaths per year.
Improper hand and finger positioning is the #1 cause of hand damage, which indicates that safety training is the best prevention for hand injuries. Small changes in finger positioning can make a big difference. Trainers should watch trainees’ fingers and guide them toward safe movements.
Another contributor to hand damage is using the hand as the tool, instead of using the proper tool for the job. This is also a training issue. Workers should be given multiple-scenario options for getting a job done. If the first tool doesn’t work, they should know what to do next without resorting to using their hands.
Improper clothing and jewelry can contribute to hand injuries. Workers should be instructed to remove rings, watches, bracelets, and any clothing with long sleeves, long tails, and cuffs. These are hazards when they come within an arm’s length of rotating or moving machinery, tools, and electrical zones.
Gloves and protective gear are also essential for hand protection. Train workers to wear the proper gear for the task. Examples include:
- Wearing rubber gloves and protective guards when mixing chemicals
- Using only electrical gloves for electrical work
- Wearing steel mesh gloves for cutting tasks
- Limiting the use of cotton/canvas gloves to light work that doesn’t involve dangerous machinery or chemicals
All hand protection should have the following characteristics:
- It should be suited for the specific job
- It should fit perfectly
- It should feel comfortable to wear
- It shouldn’t be worn, torn, or contaminated
- It shouldn’t have protrusions that make it a hazard itself
These hand safety tips are brought to you by Zeteky, a leader in oil and gas industry safety software. Contact us for a demo and see how Zeteky can minimize hand, finger, and wrist injuries at your company.