By: Nic Carter, GSP, CHST

Undoubtedly you value your hands, or perhaps you wish you had. While you would not deliberately put them at risk, do you take the necessary steps to prevent injury?  According to one source, 25% of work injuries involve hands or fingers; 70% of workers were not wearing gloves, and 30% were wearing improper or damaged gloves.  Thousands of workers every year injure their hands.  In the worst cases, injuries may include amputations or other loss of function.  Whether you are working with your hands in your personal or professional life, what are some things you can do to protect them?

Recognize the Hazards

  • Be alert to potential hand hazards before an accident can happen.
  • Be alert to possible unguarded pinch points such as gears, pulleys, and hinges. Danger zones are found between a moving object and stationary object or between two moving objects. Avoid placing hands and fingers near these points.
  • Be alert to possible high temperature spots. Certain types of machinery, like printing presses and air compressors, have built-in heaters or generate heat. Hot areas on these machines can cause serious burns.
  • Always use push-sticks, guards, shields, and other protective devices when appropriate. Do not remove guards.
  • Never use your hands to perform a task that can be performed by a tool. For example, use a brush or a rag to wipe away debris, not your hands.
  • Inspect equipment and machinery before and after tasks to make sure that it is in good operating condition.
  • Disconnect power and follow Parsons’ established lockout and tagout procedures before repairing or cleaning machinery.
  • Never wear jewelry or loose clothing when working with moving machine parts.
  • Use the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), gloves, or guards for the specific task you are performing.
  • When wearing gloves, be sure they fit properly and are rated for the specific task you are performing.
  • Select tools designed to keep wrists straight to help avoid repetitive motion/overuse problems.

Use the Proper Tool Properly

  • Using the wrong tool for a job or using the right tool in the wrong way can result in a serious hand injury. Inspect your tools carefully before using them and throw away any tool that appears unsafe. Never apply unnecessary pressure when using tools.
  • Wrenches: Whenever possible, use a box-end wrench instead of an open-end wrench to avoid slipping. Choose the proper size wrench for the job. Always pull on the wrench. Never push against it.
  • Screwdrivers: Put the object you are working on in a vise or on a flat surface. Never hold it in your hand.
  • Knives: Keep blades well sharpened. Always cut away from your body. Use a retractable knife blade when possible. Never use a knife as a screwdriver or to pry objects. Make sure you have plenty of space around you when working with a knife. Never work on the same piece of material with a coworker who is using a knife. Knives should never be stored in drawers. Store knives separately from other tools, and keep the blades turned down. Never leave a knife lying around unattended.

Safety Tips

  • Recognize hazards.
  • Think through each job before you begin.
  • Follow safety rules.
  • Avoid shortcuts.
  • If an accident happens, seek prompt treatment.
  • Report injuries to your supervisor.

Healthy hands are built to last a lifetime, but injuries can last a lifetime, too. Be aware of your hand placement and take precautions to guard them.


Nic Carter is the Regional Safety Manager – South for eRisk Solutions.