Human hands are complex. Though a relatively small part of the body, the hand contains 27 bones, 27 joints, 34 muscles, and more than 100 ligaments and tendons. That complexity makes the hand vulnerable. Add that to the fact that we use our hands to manipulate tools, operate machinery, and otherwise engage with potential hazards on the job, and it is no surprise that the hand is the second-most injured body part in US workplaces.
Most Hand Injuries at Work Could be Avoided
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 121,000 hand injuries involving days away from work in 2019. Many of these injuries could have been avoided. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says more than 70% of hand and arm injuries in the workplace could be avoided with proper protective equipment. But, most workers don’t wear hand protection, such as gloves. And, about 30% of those who do wear some sort of protective gear use the wrong equipment for the work performed.
In some cases, using the wrong gear may be more dangerous than going without protective equipment at all. For example, loose-fitting gloves may catch in machinery. To minimize the risk of hand injuries on the job, it is very important to ensure that the equipment in use is appropriate to the task, in good condition, and properly fitted.
Of course, lack of appropriate protective gear isn’t the only factor. Human error plays a significant role in the number of hand injuries that occur in US workplaces. Sometimes, that error is the responsibility of the individual worker. That could mean carelessness, distraction, coming to work fatigued, or cutting corners to increase speed. On the other hand, human error can occur due to improper or inadequate training.
Who is to Blame for Hand Injuries on the Job?
The good news for those who suffer serious hand injuries on the job is that it typically doesn’t matter whose fault the injury was. The Massachusetts workers’ compensation system was designed to ensure that people who are injured while performing their jobs have access to important benefits such as medical coverage and replacement income. While there are some limited exceptions, Massachusetts employees are typically entitled to workers’ compensation for on-the-job injuries even if their own negligence caused or contributed to the accident.
How Serious are Hand Injuries?
Like most types of injuries, hand injuries can be relatively minor or very serious. Most on-the-job hand injuries involve lacerations. Laceration is another word for cut, and so probably doesn’t sound especially serious. Sometimes that’s true. However lacerations to the hand can cut through ligaments, tendons, or nerves. That type of injury can cause serious damage, may require surgical repair, and doesn’t always heal completely.
Some other common types of on-the-job hand injuries include:
- Crush injuries
- Avulsion or detachments
- Puncture wounds
While most of these injury types are self-explanatory, “avulsion” may be unfamiliar. An avulsion injury is an injury in which a small part of the bone which is attached by ligament or tendon is pulled away from the main part of the bone. They generally require rest and other treatment, followed by targeted exercise to restore range of motion.
Because of both the delicacy of the hand system and the importance of hand function to work and other daily activities, it is important to get prompt medical attention if you suffer a hand injury. And, it’s critical to ensure that you follow up with any recommended treatment or physical therapy.
It is also very important that you are aware of your rights and fully understand any workers’ compensation settlement you are offered. One follow-up study on hand injuries on the job showed that only 60% of these patients had returned to their original occupations after eight months. Settling a workers’ compensation claim too quickly can be risky, and can leave the injured worker stuck with large medical bills if longer-term care is required.
If you have suffered a hand injury on the job, make sure that you fully understand both your legal and medical situation before making any decisions. A consultation with an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney can be your best resource. Attorney Kevin P. Broderick has worked extensively on behalf of injured workers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. He understands how important it is for you to have reliable information before you make critical decisions. That’s why he offers free consultations to people who have been injured on the job. You can schedule yours right now by calling 978-459-1792 or filling out the contact form on this site.
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