According to OSHA, after falls, pinch-point injuries can be the most serious and debilitating of work place injuries. Pinch points are widespread among many industries and can occur during a slew of activities involving a large variety of machinery.
Pinch points are those situations where machines, hand tools and conditions put hands, feet and sometimes an entire body in danger. Neil Diggins, an N.C. Labor Department Safety Standard Officer in the Occupational Health and Safety Division says an injury can come from something as small as a pair of pliers, or from something as large as a road grader. Most tools have or can cause pinch points.
“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,” Diggins says.
Over one third of the millions of disabling on-the-job accidents involve hand injuries and of these injuries, over 80 percent of them are attributed to a pinch point accident.
So how to protect employees from pinch-point injuries?
Diggins says OSHA closely monitors reported pinch-point injuries and looks for ways to strengthen or change regulations as needed. Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations sets the OSHA standards for protecting workers from amputations in the workplace. It’s an extensive set of regulations and should be studied and followed closely by employers and safety supervisors.
“While OSHA standards offer a strict guideline to help prevent injuries, employers should be able to recognize, identify, manage and control pinch-point and amputation hazards commonly found in the workplace,” Diggins says. “Accidents happen, but an employer should be familiar with operations and identify hazards from mechanical components, mechanical motion and activities that workers perform during a mechanical operation.”
Some of the Title 29 regulations discuss guards and devices used around mechanical equipment that can reduce the number of injuries.
Diggins says that employee training and safety awareness is also a tactic for employers to use to decrease safety incidents.
“Creating a work culture where safety is featured as a primary goal is important. Awareness of safety protocols and the understanding that they’re not suggestions, they’re rules to save your life makes a difference in how well employees adhere to the regulations,” Diggins says.
Having visual cues reminding employees of safety procedures, safety equipment and the importance of working smart for safety is an important part of decreasing accidents. “When I walk onto a plant floor and the first thing I see is a safety sign of some sort, or a collection of signs promoting workplace safety – it can be indicative of how seriously an employer takes safety standards,” Diggins says.
- For pipeline or concrete, container docks, or suspended loads near fixed or mobile equipment – ask yourself, “If this load moves or shifts unexpectedly, will I be in the way?”
- Be on guard whenever you put your hands, fingers, toes, or feet “between” anything.
- Discuss and point out pinch point hazards as part of your risk assessment and toolbox meetings.
- Make sure your hands are placed where you can see them.
- Never operate equipment or machinery without the required machine guards. Guards are designed to prevent contact with pinch points and points of operation.
- Never place yourself or any part of your body in a potential pinch point area unless protective measures are provided for such activity.
- When reaching in to operate a control or reaching for an object, consider where your body parts are located. If it is within a pinch point, identify an alternative position or make sure all movable parts are fixed in place.