The Health & Safety Institute referred to construction sites as epicenters for these types of injuries. Though these parts of the human body are small, injuries to them can cause serious, long-term consequences. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claims that hand injuries cause more than 1 million workers to be sent to emergency rooms every year in the United States.
Hand and finger injuries that happen at construction sites can be caused by compression between objects, equipment malfunctions, electrical accidents, and by not following safety protocols. While it is possible that they can be caused by the injured employee, in some cases, they are the result of negligence. The five most common kinds of construction hand and finger injuries include:
Less common hand and finger injuries are caused by the following:
A hand or finger injury can have a long-term impact on a worker’s day-to-day routine. The injury could lead to reduced range of motion in the fingers, an inability to bend the fingers, or weakened grip strength that does not improve with time. Other hand and finger injuries can cause the complete loss of use to the hand or fingers. There is also the possibility of amputation in some cases.
In addition to the pain and suffering that the worker experiences, there are considerable monetary costs associated with hand and finger injuries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are 110,000 days away from work related to cuts and lacerations of hands and fingers each year. This is second to back sprains and strains, which ranked number one in this category. Some workers who are injured in this way can never return to their previous positions or may never be able to return to work at all.
Injured employees can also face overwhelming medical expenses after hand and finger injuries. On average, a severed tendon could rack up to $70,000 in bills, and a laceration might cost around $10,000. This does not take into account lost time from work, driving to doctor appointments, and other indirect costs.
Employers are shouldering much of the burden, too. According to Dan Shipp, President of the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA), road construction companies have been spending a great deal of money to pay for hand injury costs every year. Looking at the data, Shipp feels that properly equipping their workers and ensuring that they are wearing gloves while working would decrease the number of injuries and be much more cost-effective.
It is true that wearing construction gloves will not stop every hand and finger injury from occurring, but the general consensus is that wearing gloves will cut down the risk of hand injuries by up to 60 to 70 percent.
There is no question that the best way to prevent hand and finger injuries is to wear protective gloves. Yet, many construction workers still work barehanded. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), almost 71 percent of hand injuries can be prevented when personal protective equipment (PPE) is worn, such as safety gloves.
Modern work gloves are geared toward the job at hand, and use high-tech materials and fibers that offer better protection to construction workers. Instead of the uncomfortable, poorly fitting gloves of the past, the newer versions provide more dexterity and touch sensitivity. These gloves protect workers against lacerations and hazardous chemicals, like hexavalent chromium, and they are lighter in weight and more ergonomically designed.
Choosing the right pair of gloves will make a construction worker’s job easier, so taking some time to look into the different options is well worth the effort. For example, sheet metal workers or other individuals working with sharp materials can choose cut-resistant gloves that have sponge Nitrile coatings and liners.
Continuous wear gloves do not offer as much cut resistance as other ones, but they are acceptable for tasks that require more dexterity and sensitivity. Gloves with oily grips are useful when handling slippery, oily objects. There are also multi-functional gloves that protect employees from a variety of working hazards.
Even though construction gloves have come a long way from their bulky polymer and leather predecessors, they are not effective unless they are kept on. They are more comfortable and lighter nowadays, but must be worn consistently and properly.
To offer the best protection, gloves must fit well and be worn when work is being done. Some workers might take them off to do something else and neglect to put them back on; this is high-risk behavior and can lead to accidents. Employers can stress the importance of keeping the gloves on, and ensure that they fit properly and that they are in good condition. Safety training at this juncture is essential and should be reinforced periodically.
After a construction accident at work, it is imperative to seek medical attention and then legal representation. A lawyer will help an injured worker file a Workers’ Compensation claim and protect the worker’s rights.
Working without gloves on at a construction site is ill-advised, but hand and finger injuries can happen to well-protected workers, too. If you have experienced any type of work-related injury, reach out to one of our experienced Pittsburgh Workers’ Compensation lawyers at AlpernSchubert P.C. Call us at 412-765-1888 or complete our online form for a free consultation. Located in Pittsburgh, we serve clients throughout western Pennsylvania, including Allegheny County, Lawrence County, and Washington County.