Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicate that 275,500 workers suffered injuries to the hands and fingers in 1994. That is, about 12 percent of work-related injuries is to hands or fingers. At work, the hands are exposed to three basic kinds of hazards:
* Mechanical hazards. These are present wherever machinery is used. Injuries resulting from machinery use might include cuts, punctures, abrasions, or crushing.
* Environmental hazards. Factors like extreme heat or cold, electricity and materials handling have the potential to injure your hands.
* Irritating substances. Skin conditions such as dermatitis can be caused by contact with chemicals and biological agents (bacteria, fungi, and viruses). Chemicals and toxic substances can also enter the bloodstream through abrasions or cuts.
Note: A fourth type of hazard, ergonomic hazards, which are musculoskeletal in nature (e.g., carpal tunnel syndrome) can be caused by repetitive motions over a period of time (e.g., typing every day for months or years). This type of hazard is not easily addressed by personal protective equipment and is not addressed here.
The following information on personal protective equipment for the hands will help reduce these injuries.