High Risk of Hand and Arm Injuries in Workplaces
August 17, 2017
Workers can suffer a range of debilitating hand and arm injuries while they are at work. This type of injuries is often caused by repetitive motion, trauma or contact with dangerous materials or machinery. Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) works to decrease hand and arm injuries, statistics show that thousands of amputations, crush injuries, cuts and lacerations still happen each year.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are over 50,000 arm injuries every year. On average, workers lose about 11 days of work as a result of their injury. Hand injuries happen even more often: the BLS counts over 137,000 annually with workers losing an average of 5 workdays. Altogether, with nearly 200,000 workers suffering from serious and potentially life-changing injuries, increasing arm and hand safety in the workplace needs to be a priority.
Some injuries are more difficult than others to see. Not every injury is the result of trauma or contact; instead, repetitive movements cause many. Pain from these types of injuries is felt over time in the nerves, tendons and muscles. Common causes behind repetitive strain injuries include an overuse of the muscles on a repetitive basis, carrying heavy loads repeatedly, forceful activities, poor posture, improper equipment, prolonged periods of work without breaks and cold temperatures. There are many different types of repetitive strain injuries, including Bursitis, Cubital Tunnel Syndrome, Epicondylitis (tennis elbow), Tendonitis and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.
To avoid repetitive strain injuries, the National Health Service (NHS) recommends that workers take regular breaks and shift the position their body is in. Other tips include reducing overall bodily strain through proper work equipment, only using computers as much as required and maintaining good posture. For those who work on computers most of the time, it is important to make sure that arms and hands are in neutral positions when typing to avoid additional strain.
When it comes to trauma and contact-based injuries, crush-injuries, cuts, lacerations and amputations are the most common. Much of the time, these kinds of injuries are the result of an employer’s failure to adequately guard machinery and provide protective equipment. Failing to have lockout/tagout procedures in place can also result in dangerous or deadly injuries. The primary purpose behind lockout/tagout safety procedures is to protect employees from unexpected start up or release of energy during maintenance or service on machinery.
The BLS estimates that 21 workers die every year as a result of workplace amputations. Furthermore, thousands of workers lose body parts each year, with fingertips being the most common. According to OSHA’s data, the equipment most likely to cause these crushing and compression injuries are drill presses, mechanical power presses, powered and nonpowered conveyers, food slicers, meat grinders, table and portable saws, power press brakes, milling machines and shears, grinders and slitters.
Serious cuts and lacerations may account for as much as 30% of all workplace injuries. Common types of cut and laceration injuries include puncture wounds, scratches and abrasions requiring first aid, deep puncture wounds requiring medical attention and/or sutures and lacerations involving nerve or tendon damage. Safety and Health magazine cites improper training, failure to wear adequate hand equipment, lack of established safety procedures and missing or improperly adjusted guarding equipment as the biggest culprits behind these kinds of injuries.
While OSHA is in place to regulate and improve overall worker safety, it is clear that far too many preventable injuries regularly occur. Most often, this is because OSHA is not able to identify what safety lapses an employer made until after an injury or death has happened. Because so many arm and hand injuries are the result of safety failures, OSHA urges employers and machine manufacturers to make sure they guard each point-of-operation hazard. This includes using protective barriers that prevents equipment from operating when someone’s limbs enter a hazard area.
Safety materials need to always be available and used properly in the workplace. To limit arm and hand injuries caused by machinery, employers should provide protective sleeves or gloves for employees and ensure that all machinery they come into contact with or work near is safeguarded and have lockout/tagout procedures in place. It is also important that employees have regular breaks and physically sound work equipment. Through providing proper safety training, machine guarding and protective equipment to employees, employers can more fully do their legal part of keeping workers safe.
Reading Hand Injury Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Pursue Compensation for Injuries
If you or a loved one has been injured at work because of an unsafely guarded or unguarded machine, please contact our Reading hand injury lawyers. At Galfand Berger, we are happy to answer your questions and review your case for free. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.