As many as 1 million hand injuries occur in workplaces each year, ranging from cuts and lacerations to amputations and fractures. A hand safety policy, along with the use of appropriate hand protection and safety knives, can reduce or eliminate most of those injuries from your workplace.
“It’s hard to peel a banana without your thumb. It’s hard to button your shirt without the use of your thumb.”
What seems obvious isn’t always obvious to employees, says John Bell, EHS operations leader for FMC’s Health & Nutrition Business. The employees in his division make up about 20 percent of the 6,000 FMC employees around the world. FMC manufactures a wide variety of products, ranging from herbicides and fungicides to health and nutrition products to the lithium used in the manufacture of ceramics and rubber, pharmaceuticals and batteries.
Starting three or four years ago, safety leaders at the company recognized that there was an uptick in hand injuries. There was one serious hand injury in particular, says Bell, that caught management’s attention. One worker lost part of his finger when it got caught in a rotary valve he was able to access through a hatch.
The business implemented what Bell calls a “mandatory corrective action plan,” searching out the hundreds of similar openings throughout the business and removing or sealing them. Now to open them, employees need special tools.
“A significant number of hand injuries have been eliminated by that one action,” says Bell.
Michelle L. Brown, CSP, FMC corporate process safety manager, admits the company has many diverse businesses with a lot of challenges when it comes to hand injuries. When the uptick in hand injuries was noted, a “Th!nk Safe” campaign was initiated that included a mandatory glove use standard for all locations.
“Our activities include: Implement a global glove standard; developing and launching several videos around hand safety; and analyzing our event data to drive targeted campaigns to address hand safety issues,” says Brown.
Videos, many of them funny or featuring children’s perspectives on hand safety, helped educate workers and bring home the importance of protecting their hands not only for themselves, but for all the activities they enjoy with their families.
Employees, as part of their education about hand protection, were told to “find hazards with their minds, not their hands,” says Bell. They are expected to conduct job safety analysis and risk assessments to determine the hazards before work starts, so that proper safety measures – such as the appropriate hand protection and safety knives – are in place before they begin a task. As a result, the total recordable injury rate (TRIR) (all company sites – even those outside of the United States – report injuries based on OSHA standards) has dropped to .22 from .5 – .7.
The company offers what Bell calls “an unrestricted supply of gloves,” adding, “We don’t scrimp and save on hand protection. We want workers to wear gloves.”