Practice proper hand safety: wear protective gloves

Protect your hands so they last a lifetime. Wear gloves appropriate to the task. Photo: Joel Kofron, ES&H

Hand injuries are always a concern as we work at home and at Fermilab. We use our hands frequently and thus have many opportunities to pinch, cut, burn or crush them inadvertently. Often these types of injuries can be avoided by wearing proper gloves.

For certain assignments, one may need specialized gloves to be adequately protected without adversely affecting the work process. For example, for tasks that require making fine adjustments, people often remove their gloves to get the job done, but this has resulted in worker injuries. A solution would be to wear tight-fitting mechanic’s gloves, which are now available in the Fermilab stock room. Although mechanic’s gloves tend to provide somewhat less protection than heavy leather gloves, workers are more likely to wear them because of their superior dexterity and comfort.

Hand safety can also be improved by using purpose-specific cutting and ergonomic tools. It can be difficult to ensure the safety of home-made tools, so when you have a choice, use off-the-shelf equipment. The Fermilab stock room offers a large variety of work gloves. Some examples are cut-resistant, mechanic’s, knuckle, disposable and heat-resistant gloves.

When performing a manual task, always ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. Are your hands placed correctly? Consider sharp edges, pinch points and crush zones. Also consider how best to handle hot or cold surfaces. Think especially carefully about where to place your hands when using unguarded machinery.
  2. Are you observing safe practices? Only perform tasks for which you have been properly trained, and observe any relevant lockout, tag-out procedures. When performing manual tasks, remove all rings and bracelets, and make sure the appropriate guards and barriers are in place. In cases for which a tool will do the job, use it – don’t rely on your hands.
  3. Are you adequately protected? Do not wear worn-out or damaged gloves. For situations in which there’s a risk of your hands getting crushed, use gloves with padded crush protection. When using rough equipment, wear leather gloves. For tasks involving harsh or toxic chemicals, use chemical gloves. Use medical gloves in medical situations.

For more information, view this video on safety gloves.

Remember, whether at home or at work, take five and protect your hands and fingers. You don’t know how much you need them until you don’t have the use of them.

J.B. Dawson