Safety Month 2020 - Week 2

​It’s week 2 of National Safety Month, and our HSE leadership is continuing to share important insights and tips to help us all live our safety culture inside and outside the workplace. Last week, we heard from Matrix Service VP, HSE & People Karen McDonald on safety in the home.​​

This week, Matrix NAC Director, HSE Tom Pechar is covering hand safety. We don’t often think about our hands, but they are our most valuable tool — nothing has ever been invented that can match them for usefulness and adaptability. Unfortunately, they are also very vulnerable to safety incidents. Hand injuries rank among the most frequent types of industrial accidents.


MONDAY: Hand positioning

The best and most effective means of primary hand protection is good hand positioning — “Know where your hands are!”

Questions to think about:

  • Do you know anyone who has had a serious hand and/or finger injury? How has that injury changed their life? Can they do everything they used to do before the injury?
  • Why is hand positioning so important in protecting our hands?
  • Does your brain ever send a warning signal to your hands? e.g., “Your hands are within the danger zone!”
  • Have you ever failed to listen to those warning signals and got injured?

Don’t position your hands where they can be:

  • ​Cut or punctured by sharp objects
  • Pinched between objects
  • Burned by hot objects or chemicals
  • Struck by objects (stored energy)


TUESDAY: Pinch points and sharp objects

You are exposed to a pinch point hazard any time your hand has the potential to get caught between two moving objects, or one stationary object and one moving object. ​

Puncture wounds and lacerations are typically the most common type of injury to the hands. Matrix lacerations and punctures this year include:
  • 2 instances of lacerations by cutting discs on grinders
  • 2 lacerations from piston type equipment
  • Laceration from the edge of a seal
  • Laceration from a channel head and block.
All of these injuries occurred during normal, every-day activities, and gloves were worn in all these incidents.
Protect yourself from puncture wounds and lacerations by:
  • Wear task-appropriate gloves, but ​don’t stop there!
  • Ensuring guards are in place
  • Looking out for splinters
  • Using correct/authorized tools
  • Using a jig to keep hands away from hazards
  • Thinking, “What could happen if I do this?”


WEDNESDAY: Hand burns

Thermal and chemical burns can be prevented if we recognize the risk and apply a combination of appropriate primary and secondary means of hand protection.  ​

Questions to think about:
  • Do you know anyone that has sustained a serious burn to the hand?
  • What can help make your decision as to what type of hand protection is the best before using a chemical?
  • Do you know where to obtain Safety Data Sheets (SDS)?
  • What tasks pose the biggest threat to burning our hands?
Chemical burns:
  • Chemical exposure burns can come from chemicals used in processes, or exposure can come from common materials used during construction such as concrete, epoxy resin, and paint thinners.
  • The best source for safety information, about any chemical, is the SDS. Read the SDS and protect your hands before working with the chemical.
  • Matrix Service Company subscribes to Verisk 3E SDS and all administrative employees can access safety data sheets from this system.
Thermal burns:
  • Of course, burns can result from contact with hot materials, such as a hot liquid or a hot piece of metal from welding or other hot work.
  • Gloves need to be suitable to the task.
  • Consider the elimination of chemicals or substitution of less hazardous chemicals.
  • Use tools to hold or move hot materials.
  • Obtain more training/knowledge, as it will empower you to better understand the potential risk and actions you can take to keep your hands safe.


THURSDAY: Hand burns

Stored energy, also known as potential energy, is defined as energy stored by something because of its position (as when an object is raised and gravity can take over), because of its condition (as when something is pulled or pushed out of shape such as a spring), or in chemical form (such as an electrical charge in a battery). The release of this energy can result in injury.

Questions to think about:
  • What can we do to protect our hands from stored energy?
  • How do you know stored energy is present?
  • What work practices can we follow to prevent hand injuries from stored energy?
We can protect our hands by:
  • When applying force (push or pull), prepare for an unexpected slip or release. (Example: Using a wrench on a bolt.)
  • Keep hands from under suspended or elevated loads.
  • Use the right tool for the job and only those tools that are in good condition. Don’t use job made or modified tools.
  • Determine if multiple energy sources are present and act to eliminate, control, or protect yourself against them.


FRIDAY: Use of Tools

Hand tools are non-powered. They include anything from hammers to wrenches to shovels. ​The greatest hazard posed by hand tools is from misuse and improper maintenance.

Questions to think about:

  • Why is using a screwdriver for prying unsafe?
  • Why is using a wrench with worn jaws, to tighten a nut, not a good practice?
  • What is the safest way to strip insulation from wire?
  • Our thumbs give us the ability to use tools and perform various grips on tools. Imagine that you are not able to use either of your thumbs, due to injury. Attempt to tie a pair of shoes without using your thumbs or open a jar. Is it easy? ​
Power tools can be a serious hazard. They present more hazards than hand tools due to the speed at which they operate. The speed at which drills, saws, grinders, sanders, and routers operate can propel small particles much faster and further than hand tools and can twist or pull the hands and/or fingers into the danger zone. Use the safest tool types available for a task.

Ways to protect our hands:

  • Cut-resistant gloves can prevent or decrease the severity of injuries. However, they are not designed for protection from a moving saw blade or drill bit.  The best way to prevent injury from moving parts is to keep your hands on the tool’s handle(s) and keep all guards in place.
  • Read the tool owner’s manual to understand the tool’s proper applications, limitations, operation, and hazards.
  • Always maintain tool control by keeping a firm grip on a tool.
  • Maintain your balance and do not overreach.
  • Avoid excessive force to make cutting tools cut faster.
  • Only use tools that you have been trained to use.
  • Confirm that other people (and their hands) are not in harm’s way while using a power tool. ​