Safety, it's in our hands

Almost every activity we perform – touching, lifting, grasping, moving, pushing, and carrying – both at work and in our personal lives, requires the use of our hands. So why don't we take better care of them?

Hand, finger and wrist injuries contribute to 22% of all reported injuries within Queensland Metals. The most common injuries received are lacerations, burns, fractures, sprains and strains. They can also result in repetitive strain injuries and, in extreme cases, amputation.

Not an isolated problem, hand safety is a concern felt by the entire resources industry and remains a significant priority and health and safety campaign focus within our business.

Acting Superintendent Health and Hygiene Morne De Beer says our hands are at the forefront of almost every job and are exposed to more risks and hazards than any other part of our body. But, by contrast, hand injuries are also some of the most preventable in the workplace.

"Statistics around hand injuries are alarming, especially given the hazards responsible for hand injuries are often easily identifiable, such as pinch points, falling objects and rotating equipment," says Morne.

"Hand injuries aren't commonly considered life-threatening, so often we don't give our hands the respect and care they deserve when carrying out tasks."

"That's why a values based safety approach is so important – we want our people to make the very real, emotional connection between even a minor hand injury and the significant impact that this would have on their everyday lives," Morne says.

The hand is one of the most complex pieces of natural engineering in the human body. It gives us a powerful grip but also allows us to manipulate small objects with great precision. Through continuous training even a single finger can support the entire body weight.

The loss of a pinkie or a ring finger results in a loss of grip strength making turning things like doorknobs that much harder.

The loss of a thumb can have an even more drastic effect on your life as it enables most of a hands function and is what provides our hands with the ability to grip an item.

Simple everyday tasks such as driving, or opening a bottle or can are almost impossible to do without a thumb.

Onsite we have a number of tools and controls in place to mitigate workplace hazards, including training, pre-deployment meetings, risk assessments, on the job assessments and personal protective equipment.

But some of the most important tools are the power of situational awareness, environmental observation and focussing on the task at hand. So remember to be vigilant while performing tasks and be aware of controls that can be put in place to prevent acts from potentially becoming unsafe.

If it's not safe… always stop the job.