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Saving Your Workers’ Skin: Tips for Preventing Cuts

Cuts account for an estimated 30 percent of workplace injuries, and about 70 percent of such injuries involve the hands or fingers, according to the National Safety Council.

Occurring across all industries, these injuries include scratches and abrasions; needle sticks; puncture wounds; minor cuts; deep lacerations requiring medical attention, such as sutures; lacerations that damage nerves and tendons; and amputations.

Rich Gaul, technical advisor at the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, says that typical causes of cuts/lacerations include:

  • Improper training,
  • A lack of established safety procedures,
  • Rushing, taking shortcuts or not following safety procedures,
  • Failure to wear cut-resistant gloves,
  • Contact with metal items such as nails, metal stock or burrs,
  • Use of bladed hand tools such as knives, box cutters, screwdrivers and chisels,
  • Use of powered machinery with cutting blades, pinch points, chains and sprockets, conveyor belts, rotating parts, motors, presses and lathes,
  • Handling of sharp objects or materials such as glass and sheet metal,
  • Selecting the improper tool for the job, such as using a screwdriver as a prying tool,
  • Using a damaged tool, such as one with a cracked handle, dull blade, or mushroomed head,
  • Missing or improperly adjusted machine guards,
  • Poor housekeeping, including a buildup of clutter and debris, and
  • Insufficient lighting.

Gaul says the key to preventing cuts is to keep workers’ body parts away from sharp objects such as knives and cutting tools. Supervisors need to establish work procedures to identify and control exposure to cutting hazards, including training employees to use such procedures; maintaining proper machine guarding; using lockout/tagout procedures; ensuring that workers use PPE; ensuring that workers use tools safely; and insisting on good housekeeping practices.

Cuts and lacerations are commonly associated with the use of knives and other cutting tools. Suggestions for avoiding injury while using these tools include ensuring that:

  • Workers wear proper safety gear, including protective eyewear, the right type of gloves, and sleeves.
  • Workers always use the proper tools for a job.
  • Workers inspect tools for damage or defects before using them.
  • Workers keep their work areas tidy.
  • Tools are kept under control at all times.
  • Items being cut are secured, such as in a vice, and not hand-held while being cut.

Blades are always sharp. Dull blades require greater cutting force and increase the risk of a blade slipping and cutting a worker. Dispose of dull blades in an approved sharps container, or wrap them in heavy tape before putting them in the trash.

  • Workers stand in a well-balanced position when using knives.
  • The path of the cut is clear and the non-cutting hand is not in the path of the cut.
  • Several passes are made when cutting thick material, and the downward force of the knife is increased with each pass.
  • Exposed blades are not left unattended. Use self-retracting blades or fold the blade closed whenever possible.
  • Rounded-tip blades, rather than pointed-tip blades, are used whenever possible.
  • Knives are properly stored, for example, in a separate drawer, rather than with other tools.
Bongarde Editorial

Bongarde Editorial

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