Our hands are indispensable to our daily lives, critical to just about every task we undertake. That’s why it’s so important to treat them with the care they deserve.
In fact, 20 percent of disabling workplace injuries involve the hands, including burns, cuts, fractures, dermatitis, poisoning, nerve damage and amputation. The specific tasks you undertake, whether on the job, at home or in pursuit of hobbies, will make you more or less susceptible to specific types of injuries.
It’s important to know the best methods for preventing and avoiding the injuries most likely to occur in your job.
Protect Your Hands with the Appropriate Gloves
Your workplace should provide you with training and appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) for your job. The most obvious PPE for hands are gloves, but what kind of gloves are best will depend on your job.
Certain occupations require special protection. For example, leather or cloth gloves should not be used when handling liquid chemicals. Electricians and others at risk from shocks and burns should look for rubber gloves that provide insulation from these hazards. Other workers may need gloves made of wire mesh to protect against burns and cuts. Whatever the case, make sure you consistently wear the best gloves recommended for the work you do.
Remove jewelry before working with machinery or before wearing plastic gloves. Make sure your gloves fit you properly, since a proper fit will enable you to do your job correctly, safely, and more efficiently. Gloves that are too large can get caught in machinery, potentially leading to serious injury or loss of limb.
Unless your job requires the use of disposable gloves, clean your gloves regularly and replace them if they have cuts, holes, tears, defects, or no longer fit properly.
Protect Your Hands from Office Injuries
If you work at a desk, you may think you don’t have to worry about injuries to your hands. But indeed, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and other repetitive stress injuries are quite common among those who work at a computer all day. To lessen the risk of developing CTS or other hand and wrist problems, keep your hands, wrists, and forearms neutral. Arrange your keyboard, mouse, and/or trackpad so they’re easy to use with your hands and wrists at or below a 90-degree angle, with elbows at your sides. This keeps you from straining and reduces the load on your muscles. Your keyboard should be 1-2″ above your thighs, which may require the use of a pull-out keyboard tray. If you can, position your keyboard at a negative tilt down and away from you, to keep your arms and hands following the downward slope of your thighs.
Avoid bending your wrist all the way up or down. Keeping wrists in a straight, neutral position takes the pressure off the median nerve, which runs the length of the arm to the hand. Compression of this nerve, which passes through the wrist’s carpal tunnel, can bring on symptoms including tingling, numbness and weakness.
Seek Professional Help
Whether you operate machinery, work at a computer, play piano or work construction, if your job or lifestyle involves repetitive actions with your hands, you may benefit from performing regular hand exercises. An occupational or physical therapist who specializes in hand therapy can help design a program just for you.
If you experience an injury on the job, develop repetitive strain injuries, or have any concerns regarding your hands, wrists or arms, contact the team at Muskegon Surgical Associates Hand Center. We’re specially trained and certified in treating conditions of the hands and upper extremities and can help you determine if you need surgery, hand therapy, or a combination of both. Contact us or call (231) 739-1933 for an appointment.
OSHA, Washington State