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Manual dexterity – the use of hands, fingers and thumbs to perform everything from very basic to very complex motions - is something we may take for granted much of the time.

But when these most intricate and useful manual appendages find themselves in harm’s way, the results are hard to ignore.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than a million workers visit the emergency room with hand injuries each year. Approximately 110,000 hand injuries result in lost time at work (1) with the average hand injury resulting to six days away from the job. The average claim is about $6,000, while the average workers' compensation claim comes to about $7,500. In all, the hands account for about 13 percent of all industrial injuries each year.

Depending on the industry, some workplace injuries routinely involve the possibility of exposure to toxic materials through the skin. In fact, the Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards (2) from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) lists approximately 450 organic substances for which skin protection is required.

As the body’s largest organ, the skin represents a major route for chemical exposure. Toxins can damage the skin directly, be absorbed into the body through the skin or enter through hand-to-mouth transfer. To complicate matters, results of numerous studies indicate that chemical absorption through the skin can go unnoticed by someone going about his or her work routine.

So, one might argue, when it comes to chemical protective clothing for the hands, why not just have workers don heavily insulated, chemically impervious mitts and be done with it? The reason, of course, is that most jobs require a level of tactility that limits the practicality of such a design, even it were possible to fabricate.

Here’s another argument for not just throwing on any old set of gloves. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (Occupational Safety and Health Administration/OSHA), 30 percent of workers who suffered hand injuries were wearing gloves that were inadequate, damaged or were the wrong type for the hazard. Perhaps even more telling is that the other 70 percent who sustained a hand injury were not wearing gloves at the time of the incident (3).

When it comes to choosing chemical protective clothing, organizations should weigh factors such as cost, practicality, toxicity, and workplace exposure conditions.

OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standard (1910.132) calls for a hazard assessment that includes conducting a survey of each operation, identifying specific potential hazards, organizing the data and analyzing the information. This analysis should include a determination of the level of risk and seriousness of the potential injury from each hazard found in the area.

It’s important to keep in mind that commonly available glove materials provide only limited protection against many chemicals. Gloves also represent an opportunity for sweat to build up, leading to potential discomfort and health issues. That means selecting the best fit for a particular application, which includes determining how long gloves can be worn and whether they can be reused (4).

Because they are not always reliable as a source of protection, gloves are not recommended by NIOSH or OSHA as a primary defense against chemical exposure.

Rather, chemical protective clothing for the hands should be one part of a comprehensive approach that includes practices such as isolation, training and environmental monitoring.

References
1. 2014 USA National Safety Council. 2014 injury data.
2. www.cdc.gov/niosh/npg/
3. www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=standards&p_id=9777
4. www.cdc.gov/niosh/ncpc/default.html

Eye injuries on the job can occur from a variety of sources, from exposure to chemicals or particulate matter to cuts or scrapes to the cornea. Other common sources of eye (and skin) injuries are splashes, steam burns and exposure to ultraviolet or infrared radiation.

Every day, an average of 2000 workers in the United States suffer job-related eye injuries that require medical treatment, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). March has been designated as Workplace Eye Wellness Month, a time to focus on vision safety on the job. Obviously, that should be a year-round concern; anytime is a good time to determine what personal protective equipment is appropriate for the job, review eye and face protection protocols with employees, and ensure they are correctly using the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) for the job.

According to OSHA Face Protection Standard 1910.133(a) (1), it is the responsibility of the employer to "ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards." That includes making sure the PPE uses eye protection that provides side protection when there is a hazard from flying objects (OSHA Face Protection Standard 1910.133(a) (2). For those who wear prescription lenses, OSHA Face Protection Standard 1910.133(a)(3) requires that each affected employee "engaged in operations that involve eye hazards wears eye protection that incorporates the prescription in its design, or wears eye protection that can be worn over the prescription lenses without disturbing the proper position of the prescription lenses or the protective lenses."

The PPE selected depends upon the type of hazard, the circumstances of exposure, the type of other PPE to be used, and a person’s vision needs. Common forms of PPE for the face and eyes include safety glasses, goggles, face shields, and full face respirators.

Of course, having the PPE is only part of equation: The equipment will only do its job properly if it is used properly. A Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) survey of workers who suffered eye injuries showed that nearly three out of five were not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident. The workers in the survey most often reported that they believed protection was not required for the situation.

A final thought: OSHA urges employers not to rely exclusively upon PPE devices to protect against eye hazards. Personal protective gear should be a part of a safety environment that includes guards, engineering controls, and robust safety practices.

How is your workplace watching over employee eye safety?

The National Fire Protection Association is seeking comments on a Tentative Interim Amendment (TIA) to NFPA 1999. Standard on Protective Clothing for Emergency Medical Operations. According to a press release, this TIA follows work conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and other organizations and federal agencies that recognized the need for a national standard on personal protective equipment to protect emergency first responders from exposure to liquid-borne pathogens.

Read entire article - http://www.nfpa.org/press-room/news-releases/2014/nfpa-seeks-comments-to-help-protect-first-responders-from-ebola-virus

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