When I spoke at an EHS Today/Dyneema forum during the 2014 ASSE Professional Development Conference and Expo in Orlando, Fla., I conducted an informal hand safety poll. I asked the audience: “How many people have cut their hands?” Everyone in the room raised a hand.
When I asked how many people have had stitches on one of their hands, many people in the room kept their hands raised. Then I asked, “How many people have had stitches more than once?” In a room full of safety professionals, I learned that most people have scratched their hands, and many have had stitches multiple times.
Ever scar on your hand has a story. They key to improving workplace hand safety is helping others see and feel the same lesson that you learned from your hand injury – without the pain.
For example, several years ago, I used a utility knife to cut plastic. The plastic was harder than I expected, and I had to apply pressure to make the cut. When I applied the pressure, the blade broke and my hand slammed into the broken blade stuck in the plastic. I didn’t want to look at the damage because I knew that I’d made a mistake. The incident cost me six stitches and a good dose of humility.
As a result of the incident, I cringe every time I see a utility knife. I have a personal, hands-on connection with the risk. A productive hand safety initiative helps others see the reality of the risk without the painful experience.
The Hands-On-Safety Champion Program is a process that reduces hand injuries with employee involvement and a hands-on reality check. I cringe when I see a utility knife, and my instinct is to pull back when I have to use one because I remember my lesson. The goal of the program is to instill the same instinctive reaction in others without the pain.
Here’s how the Hands-On-Safety Champion Program works.
You choose natural leaders (champions) in your workforce and give them a responsibility to focus on hand safety. The program is a 360-degree process that promotes identification, coaching, and mentoring through positive peer-to-peer influence.
Champions conduct focused hand safety surveys with survey cards. The cards have 10 specific bullets that help champions evaluate common risks that cause hand injuries. Champions also use the platform to coach and mentor coworkers. The focused surveys are an opportunity to share their stories or make hands-on connection.
STEP 1: Select your Safety Champions
You need good people to lead the charge. Each supervisor should appoint a safety champion for his or her team. The champions lead the initiative to coach, mentor, and observe safe hand behavior in their areas.
Safety champions should possess the following qualities:
- Positive attitude
- Strong leadership skills
- Interest in safety
- A desire to achieve safety goals