Anyone who has ever sliced open a knuckle, or broken or sprained a finger, understand just how difficult it is to navigate the world when one of your hands isn’t working the right way. For oil and gas workers, however, the types of hand injuries they face are far more severe. In some cases, the injuries can lead to permanent, life-altering disabilities.
While fires and explosions get a lot of “air time” when it comes to new reports, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration points out that “hand and finger injuries make up nearly 50 percent of incidents in the oil and gas industry, and sometimes this figure can reach up to 80 percent of all recordable incidents,” making them a “significant challenge” for workers both up and downstream.
How common are hand injuries?
According to the MedExpress, which complied the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US Department of Labor, and the National Safety Council, “In 2017, the over 140,000 hand injuries sustained at work were categorized into more than a dozen different types.” The most common injuries were categorized as:
- Cuts, lacerations and punctures
- Crushing injuries
- Fractures, sprains and tears
- Chronic, intermittent, or long-term soreness and pain
Each of these injuries is severe, and many lead to long-term problems. For example, cuts and punctures can cause harmful chemicals to be more easily absorbed into the skin, or increase the risk of infection. Crushing injuries often lead to amputations, as cutting off the blood supply to the hand will eventually cause tissue death. Fractures – especially of the hands – take a long time to heal. Chronic soreness and pain “accounted for almost 10,000 workers missing days in 2017,” MedExpress reports, and can lead to and overall decrease in workers’ productivity.
This decrease in productivity is not the only cost, of course. The National Safety Council found that the average claims involving hands, fingers or wrists can cost between $20,000 and $25,000 in workers’ compensation costs alone, and that an amputation averages about $95,000. With these types of injuries, everybody loses.
That is why it is in your employer’s best interest (and in yours) to provide oil and gas workers with the safety equipment they need, and to put protocols in place that can help reduce the number of hand and finger injuries. Proper training and risk assessment are key, but there are two overarching steps which can help keep workers safe:
- Wear gloves. A protective glove may not prevent a crushing injury if a piece of pipe falls on your hand, but it can reduce and/or eliminate cuts, scratches and punctures. It may protect you from getting pinched, and will certainly protect your hands from frostbite or burns in extreme temperatures. Make sure you’re wearing the right gloves for the right job, too.
- Go hands-free. Many companies have started implementing hands-free systems. OSHA reports that companies saw decreased numbers of hand and finger injuries by “enforcing the use of tagline and push pole for loads and also installing CCTV on rigs and platforms’ cranes booms for use during lifting operations.”
Oil and gas is dangerous enough without worrying if you’re going to lose a finger or your hand. If you do suffer an injury while in the field, refinery, or supply chain, Cunningham & Mears is here to help. Please call our Oklahoma City oil and gas injury lawyers at 405-232-1212, or fill out our contact form, and schedule your free consultation today.