Pinch points pose major safety concerns for employees in a variety of roles and industries. In fact, according to OSHA, pinch point injuries are among the most serious and debilitating workplace injuries, second only to falls. With risks ranging from minor limb injuries to crushing, amputation, or even death, pinch point safety deserves to be a leading priority for all workplaces. Fortunately, with proper preparation and precautions, you can develop safety protocols to comply with OSHA regulations while helping to significantly reduce risk to your employees.
What Is a Pinch Point?
A pinch point is anywhere two objects come together, creating situations where machines, hand tools, and/or operating conditions put a finger, hand, foot, limb, or even the entire body in danger. Just about every tool has a pinch point, from something as small as a pair of pliers to large equipment such as a road grader. Likewise, any moving objects, like stacking cinder blocks, working near moving forklifts, and being in the vicinity of unsecured objects, create situational pinch points.
Common Pinch Point Examples
Not all pinch points are easy to identify. When assessing a work site, consider these common pinch point examples, keeping in mind this list is not exhaustive:
- Pliers and other handheld tools
- Conveyor belts
- Power presses
- Slicing and milling equipment
- Excavators, forklifts, and other heavy machinery
- Rotating or sliding parts on machines and equipment
- Doors and hinges on trucks, machines, and other equipment
- Concrete and cinder blocks
- Any unsecured materials
Pinch Point Injuries
With such a vast array of potential pinch points, pinch point injuries can range from anything as minor as a blister or contusion to major crushing injuries, amputations, or even death. That majority of pinch point injuries include the fingers or hands. Of the millions of disabling on-the-job accidents that occur each year, over one-third involve hand injuries, with the vast majority attributed to pinch point accidents. According to Neil Diggins, an N.C. Labor Department Safety Standard Officer in the Occupational Health and Safety Division, “Amputations occur most often when workers operate unguarded or inadequately safeguarded mechanical power presses, power press brakes, conveyors, printing presses, roll-forming machines, food slicers and milling machines.”
From cuts and bruises to crushed bones, amputations, and worse, pinch point injuries can cause anything from a minor inconvenience to a life-threatening emergency. If you or an employee experiences a pinch point injury, report the injury to the site supervisor immediately; for severe injuries, have a team member dial 9-1-1 as soon as possible, as delaying treatment can significantly impact outcomes.
Pinch Point Safety
As mentioned above, there are countless situations that pose potential for pinch point injuries. While OSHA provides Title 29¹, an extensive set of regulations specifically designed to help prevent pinch point injuries, it cannot address every potential risk for each individual job site. While some pinch point injuries occur when equipment or safety guards are not well maintained, the majority occur when employees become preoccupied and fail to follow standard safety procedures. In these scenarios, they either reach into machinery with moving parts, fail to pay adequate attention to the location of their hands or feet, walk across or work in areas with moving equipment, or wear clothing, jewelry, or hairstyles that become caught or tangled.
How to Protect Employees from Pinch Point Injuries
In addition to following the guidelines outlined in Title 29, employers can help reduce the risk of pinch point injuries by increasing employee training and promoting safety awareness. By putting safety at the forefront of your workplace culture, you can help develop an environment where employees take the rules seriously, helping to protect themselves in the process. Pinch point safety signs and stickers are important tools to help remind employees of proper rules and procedures and drive home the importance of following safety protocols. Help protect your employees from pinch point injuries by:
- Inspecting Machinery and Equipment Guards Regularly. Create a schedule to regularly inspect equipment to ensure safety guards are in good working order, and keep an inspection log for accountability.
- Keeping Everyone on the Safe Path. Use floor safety tape to clearly mark walking paths, working areas, and routes for moving machinery to prevent busy employees and heavy equipment from inadvertently crossing paths.
- Labeling Potential Dangers. Place safety labels on or near common pinch points or other dangers to help ensure employees remain alert and aware of their surroundings when working in those areas.
- Setting and Enforcing PPE Requirements. From safety gloves and arm guards to wearing tight-fitting clothing, removing jewelry, and securing hair, train all employees on the proper attire and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and use safety clothing signage as a prominent reminder of the rules in each area.
- Following All Lockout/Tag-Out Procedures. Enhance communication and protect employees by following requirements for locking out or tagging out before operating equipment in designated areas.
- Properly Storing Equipment. If equipment or machinery has the potential to release stored energy when not in use, be sure to follow proper procedures to store or block it before leaving the job site. Never leave equipment unattended while it is still powered on or in use.
- Educating Employees During Regular Pinch Point Toolbox Meetings. When employees understand the risks they face and the rationale behind workplace safety rules, they are more apt to follow them. Some key points to regularly reiterate to employees include staying on guard whenever placing hands or feet “between” anything, keeping hands where they can see them, never operating equipment without the required machine guards, and never placing themselves or body parts in potential pinch point areas without proper protective measures. Consider custom signage to help reiterate safety concerns specific to your facility or job site.
Once you’ve identified potential hazards and educated your employees on the importance of following proper safety procedures on the job site, use visual cues such as pinch point signs and stickers as a reminder of the risks and rules. With proper labeling, you can help ensure employees do not forget about certain hazards, mark safety zones and danger areas, and reiterate the importance of the rules. If you can’t find what you need or aren’t sure where to begin, contact a floor marking specialist for questions or custom requests. Explore our Resouce Center for additional safety tips and visual communication advice for industrial locations.