Hand Injuries: Dangerous Industries and Jobs
Workers in manufacturing and construction are more likely to suffer a hand injury than any other industry, according to a 2008 report from Safe Work Australia which analyses both hospitalisation rates and workers’ compensation claims.
Retail workers also had a high rate of hand injury.
Further analysis of workers’ compensation claims between 2012 and 2015 by WorkSafe Victoria found wood manufacturing is particularly dangerous, with hand injuries accounting for 30% of all claims, while they accounted for 18% of metal manufacturing claims.
Of the construction trades analysed, roofing was the most dangerous with hand injuries accounting for 32% of all claims, while 28% of carpentry-related claims were from hand injuries.
Those hand injury rates increase dramatically for young workers, accounting for 36% of manufacturing claims and 35% of construction claims.
Cuts and open wounds are the most common cause of injury in both industries.
Work-related hand and wrist injuries in Australia: Source Safe Work Australia, 2008
Nature of injury – hand and wrist injuries – by industry – work related emergency department presentations, July 2002 to June 2004. Per cent
Emergency department data from Queensland
Nature of injury – hand and wrist injuries – by industry – work related workers’ compensation claims, July 2002 to June 2004. Per cent
Serious workers’ compensation claims in Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania. Serious claims are those involving one or more weeks off work.
Further Safe Work Australia data found that between 2001 and 2012, 43% of all construction workers hospitalisations were because of an injury to the hand or wrist.
Hand Injury Prevention
Given the precedence of hand injuries in the manufacturing and construction industries, appropriate safety measures must be implemented. Measures that WorkSafe Victoria recommends are applied to all industries include but are not limited to:
- Ensure employees use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and clothing.
- Use job rotation or work variation to help avoid long blocks of repetitive or high force work which can lead to tendonitis.
- Use ergonomically designed tools which are fitted with safety guards and are lightweight and low vibration.
- Use vibration and puncture-resistant gloves and choose the right glove to suit a task.
Specific Advice for High Risk Jobs | Source: Worksafe Victoria
Hand injuries in manufacturing are mostly open wounds, lacerations, or amputations from machine kickback, jams or knots and foreign objects in timber, resulting in users being hit or cut by tools, or being caught or crushed in machinery.
- Develop specific policies and procedures for the safe use of equipment.
- Ensure machinery guards are in place along with router benches and moulders.
- Check safety functions (such as cut-outs) are in place on machines.
- Don’t use gloves where they may catch on machinery.
32% of roofers’ claims involved injuries to the hands and fingers, most commonly due to roof tiles or cutting equipment causing open wounds, lacerations or amputations.
- Cover sharp metal sheeting and strips
Carpenters and Joiners
28% of all injury claims made by carpenters and joiners involved the hands and fingers. The most common injury types were wounds, lacerations and amputations caused by nail guns, protruding nails and sawing or cutting wood.
- Never use nails guns in bump fire mode around other workers or carry them with the trigger depressed.
- Make sure that all exposed nails are knocked in.
- Never use power saws without working guards.
Hands and finger injuries made up 22% of all claims by plumbers with the most common injury types being wounds and lacerations caused by slipping or being crushed between tools and equipment.
- Use ergonomically designed shovels with long handles.
- Avoid manual digging where possible by mechanically excavating instead.
Hands and fingers accounted for 21% of all electrician’s injury claims with wounds and lacerations typically being caused by tools slipping or cutting.
- Cover the sharp edges of metal trays and ducts.
- Place protective caps on thread dropper and exposed rebar.
- Avoid manual cable pulling.
- Use cable strippers instead of knives, always working away from the body.
Hand injury rates increase considerably with young workers, with construction workers under 35 twice as likely to injure their hand than older workers. This means particular care should be taken to ensure young workers are well-educated and supervised.
- Provide OHS induction and ongoing safety training.
- Encourage young people to ask questions and speak up about risks they observe
- Provide training in the selection and safe use of hand tools (i.e. always work away from the body) and explain the safety features of each hand tool, emphasising the specific hazards.
- Provide specific instruction on the safe use of nail guns.
- Make sure young people know that they should not try to fix tool malfunctions themselves.
- Provide ongoing supervision until young people can safely use tools by themselves.
- Show them how to use PPE correctly.
Read our Hand Protection Safety Guide for more details on protecting against cuts.