Hands up for safety! - Facts and figures behind the campaign

Kevin Solski, Director, QEHS, Services Business Unit

Our hands are important to us. Without thinking about it we use our hands for the vast majority of our daily tasks. Our hands are used for greeting each other, showing affection, work, play, and almost everything in between. The use of our hands is so ingrained in our routine that often we do not think about their many uses.

The fact that we use our hands for such a diverse range of tasks also leads to our hands being the most often injured both at work and at home. Globally it is estimated that between 50% and 80% of all recordable workplace injuries in the industrial sector involve the hands.

Following case analysis, we found out that in the past two years, hand injuries accounted for 42% of all recordable injuries at Outotec, ranging from cuts, abrasions, fractures, and even amputations.

We strive to provide our workers with the safest place to work possible and our goal is to provide our workforce with the tools, training and risk controls to prevent all injuries. In 2019, we launched the hand safety campaign globally to bring awareness to hand safety. Through a series of focused safety messages which culminated in the “Hands Up for Safety” day our aim was to highlight hand safety awareness and bring attention to some of the things we use our hands for and how we can keep them safe and free from harm.

Underpinning our efforts to keep our hands injury-free is the use of the hierarchy of controls to eliminate or control hazards:

  • Whenever possible we want to eliminate the hazard or substitute the hazard to reduce the risk of injury.
  • Next engineering controls may be put in place to provide barriers or a degree of separation between ourselves and the hazard.
  • When the previous controls are not possible, we employ administrative controls such as work procedures or safe work practices to complete the job in a safe manner.
  • Lastly, and most commonly when controlling hazards that may affect our hands, we incorporate personal protective equipment into our work routine.

It is estimated that with proper PPE selection for our hands 60% of the recordable injuries experienced could be avoided. There are many factors that must be taken into consideration when selecting the appropriate PPE for our hands. Cut resistance, temperature extremes (both hot and cold), chemical resistance, impact hazards, and vibration are some of the most common hazards where gloves can offer some level of protection.

Cuts to the hands are the most common, and it is estimated that industry-wide in instances where a worker experiences a cut to the hands that results in a recordable injury 70% of the time the worker was not wearing gloves.

There are also both personal and financial impacts related to hand injuries. On average throughout the industry, it is estimated that a hand injury that turns into a lost time injury results in the worker missing 6 days from work at an average cost of $7,500 USD. The personal impact of such injuries is also significant with the injured worker not being able to use the hand or fingers for the same amount of time, with an even longer recovery period where a reduced function is experienced.

Our hand campaign also brought to light that hand injuries are not isolated to the job site. Musculoskeletal injuries are also very common in office settings. Tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome are two of the most common hand injuries associated with office work and the use of computers.

In the ongoing effort to maintain a zero-harm workplace and ensure that every worker goes home in the same condition that they arrived, Outotec will seek to continually improve in all areas of safety management. Our “Hands Up for Safety” campaign was one of the many ways in which we are striving to realize our goal.