Laceration Hazard and Injury Prevention Safety
Construction sites are some of the most hazardous places to work in the world. Unfortunately, cuts to the hands and fingers account for the majority of laceration injuries on job sites today. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that cuts on hands and fingers result in over 110K lost time cases each year. The National Safety Council reports and average direct cost for laceration of the hand injuries account for $10K in company expenses and severed tendons can exceed $70k. Today we will look deeper into job site lacerations and some best practices for prevention.
How Do Laceration Injuries Happen?
Many job site injuries are preventable if employees follow safety protocols and remain alert. Laceration injuries are external cuts, tears, etc… that open wounds in the skin and result in bleeding. Severe lacerations commonly involve severed fingers and badly wounded hands, or deeper cuts into arteries or veins that can have catastrophic results. Common mistakes that lead to Laceration Injuries on the job site include working with:
Wrong tool for the task
Clutter and debris near the site
Missing or broken safeguards
Failure to wear PPE
Proper and Safe Use of Tools
Use the right tool for the work at hand. Educate team members on the proper use of all cutting and shearing tools. All tools and machines should be properly maintained and all safeguards should be repaired or replaced if damaged. Ensure the installed engineering controls are used and sharp components, as well as moving parts, are well guarded at all times.
Stop Using Dull Tools
Never use dull blades or tools. Dull blades and tools require more force to cut materials. Increasing force while cutting will decrease your control and stability, which increases the likelihood of slips and skips on everything from hand tools to power tools.
Stabilize Materials Being Cut
Always stabilize materials being cut, bent, drilled, etc... It is tempting to try and hold something in one hand while trying to cut it with a tool in the other. However, this is a safety shortcut that can go badly. Minimize the number of moving pieces every time you cut anything and stabilize the materials before cutting. Use partners, clamps, push sticks, saw horses, tables, vices, and large work surfaces to keep your hands as far away from the cutting tools as possible.
Provide and Use Proper PPE
Make Personal Protective Equipment available and required. Your site may require everything from gloves to safety glasses, facemasks, and steel-toed shoes. PPE is the last line of defense for injury prevention so it is crucial that PPE be provided and used. Kevlar gloves or other cut-resistant materials are excellent examples of PPE for your hands when sharp tools and machines are in use.
Store sharp objects and tools safely when not in use. Secure cutting devices and tools in containers to prevent accidental contact and injury. If the machines have covers to protect them from the elements use them to protect people from their moving parts and cutting edges as well.
How Do I Treat a Laceration?
Cuts and scrapes come with the territory in the construction field. The ability to clean and bandage superficial wounds on site is paramount. Likewise, proper use of a tourniquet, pressure, and basic CPR should be a part of all job site safety training.
Basic First Aid
When a laceration happens, stop the bleeding as soon as possible. This may require a clean bandage on the wound with pressure applied directly. Once bleeding has stopped, clean the wound with antiseptic and bandage it accordingly if the wound is small or superficial. A visit to the physician may result in something to help the wound close like sutures, staples, specialized glue, or even tape.
For deeper cuts and wounds that won't stop bleeding with applied pressure, keep calm, and keep the pressure on the wound. If the bleeding continues without slowing, maintain pressure on the wound, and have someone contact EMS for further help.
Safety Takes Vigilance
Everyone gets into a rush to get things done. We all get complacent about hazards at the job site because we see them daily. The key is to stay alert. Make safety checks a habit and make time for regular safety sessions.
Learn To Recognize Unsafe Situations
Scrap and debris are a part of every job site. But they do not need to be underfoot where people are working. Clean up spills and debris from the work floor so everyone has the best footing and traction possible.
Mark hazards that cannot be resolved immediately easily noticeable. Brightly colored signs, cones, flags, or tape can be used to visually alert people to anything that they could mistakenly move into or onto that will do bodily harm.
Use Proper Lighting
Recognize when there is not enough light to safely work. It is tempting to push through work at dusk to get it done. Be sure if you are going to work when the sunlight is waning or unavailable that there is proper lighting for the work to be done safely. Use portable light sources to prevent shadows. Seeing clearly is a requirement for safely using tools and machines on the job site.
Regular Scheduled Breaks
Take scheduled breaks for safety. Prevent fatigue and complacency by having periods of the day where all work stops and everyone completes a safety check of their area. This includes time for equipment maintenance and tool repair, PPE checks, removing debris and scrap materials to keep walking surfaces safe, and checking safety restraints and scaffolds.
Preventing Laceration Injuries Is Multifaceted
Lacerations to the hands are the most common and often the most detrimental injuries to workers on construction sites. Hand and finger injuries are the prevailing cause of missed workdays when injuries are involved. However, laceration injuries can happen anytime a body part is close to sharp objects. Implement an ongoing strategy including:
Keeping safety top of mind will help everyone be more aware of their work environment and give everyone accountability to take corrective action.
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