Preventing hand injuries is about much more than just wearing gloves.
Hand injuries are a common event in the mining industry. By some estimates, they make up more than half of all recordable injuries. Whether it’s a laceration requiring stitches, a crush or pinch resulting in broken bones or even partial amputation, there’s far too many of these stories.
Many of Bluefield’s clients tell us that they struggle with preventing hand injuries. Nothing they try works. So, we asked some of our asset management specialists the following question:
In your experience, what are the most effective ways to prevent hand injuries?
1.0 Complete a review of injuries to understand any underlying trends: unsupervised contractors, inexperience - typically this does not tell you much as it’s spread across the spectrum of experience.
2.1 Plan and initiate an impactful “Safety Stop” - avoid just squeezing it into a shift start TBT and symbolically pull everyone up and take a walk out into a workshop bay, yard or somewhere that you typically don’t get everyone together for a chat.
2.2 The SAFETY STOP should ideally include a share from one of the recently injured guys – telling their story and sharing how it’s impacted them and their family.
2.3 Could also include one of those SIMPLE EXERCISES, where you pair up and take turns putting a glove on, taping up one hand, then trying to do a simple task like lacing up your boots. Open for other suggestions on this one.
2.4 At the end of the workshop, run a simple WHITEBOARD SESSION in small groups for the teams to list down all the stuff that could be done to improve hand safety e.g. tooling, glove matrix, banning/restricting use of open blade knives, focusing on hand safety discussions in safety shares.
2.5 Review these lists as a group and flush out a few AGREEMENTS that the guys can sign up to going forward e.g. don't put your finger in a blind hole, always wear gloves, then sort the rest into ACTIONS, post them at the shift start and get them resolved ASAP.
3.0 The industry has seen this issue in many places where critical risk/fatal hazards have absorbed all the field leadership focus, hence it’s also a good idea to BRING BACK THE BASICS such as line of fire, right tool for the job etc. back into field leadership engagement interactions/discussions.
…obviously, no silver bullet, however the above approach has proven to be an effective intervention strategy that resulted in many months of injury free performance.
Watch Steve talk about Bluefield’s NSW business here.
Not specific to hand injuries but creating a culture where people are continually looking out for how they can be injured in any way is what I have seen work. I have worked at two companies where we went two years injury free. The culture at both of these places was GENUINELY focused on not hurting anyone. This was from the top to the bottom and any minor thing was discussed with the teams on how to prevent it but not in the way where some people were sitting at the back thinking, “What a load of BS.” The teams were genuinely engaged in the discussions and it was at the forefront of each person’s mindset.
How to create this mindset is the issue. There is no magic for this formula but actions by leadership and not words is critical, as well as making the risks real in the minds of people. I think talking about things in a genuine way and calling it out when it is just rhetoric is an essential part of the process.
Gerard recently facilitated another round table about Becoming a Good Maintenance Manager. Read it here.
Stefan Van Der Linde
Again, not specifically hand injuries but often, the danger that the workforce focuses on is paperwork compliance rather than the job at hand. This is not intentional but a result of sites (from what I've seen) often focusing too much on ensuring the boxes are ticked rather than having a fundamental understanding of the task at hand and the forces and hazards at play. I quite often see safety observations start with the question, "Can I see your take five?" which again focuses on the paperwork as the most important aspect. I personally like to start with asking about the job itself and seeing if they understand the forces and hazards at play, and then check the paperwork at the end of the conversation to ensure they've documented it.
One of the things I have come across when delivering projects for clients is that guys pick the incorrect type of glove for the application they are using e.g. guys getting splinters when using gloves that had good cut resistance but not good puncture resistance. See https://www.rsea.com.au/article/169/guide-to-en-glove-standards (screenshot below) for explanation of the glove markings. Not many people are aware of this and they just grab what gloves are in front of them when doing a task rather than taking the time to pick the right glove for the task.
Watch a video on one of Brent’s recent projects here.