Pinch points are among the most common hazards in the workplace and they are the cause of many serious types of injuries. Here are some pointers to pass along to your employees.
The chances are pretty good that, at one time or another, you have been the victim of a painful pinch. It could have been at work or at home—perhaps pliers slipped, or the lid of a trash can fell, or you carried a heavy package too close to a door frame.
If you were lucky, it was not a severe injury. But it can be, and that’s why employers should, and generally do, provide workers with training on pinch points (sometimes called nip points) and how to avoid them.
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Safety.BLR.com says that the first thing is to understand what pinch points are. You can easily visualize the concept by thinking of a wrench, a pair of tweezers, an opposed thumb and forefinger, a lobster’s claw. These are all pairs of surfaces that can catch an object between them. Often, that catching is intended, as with the use of a wrench or tweezers—not so, however, with a lobster’s pincer (except, of course, by the lobster). Thus, there are many desirable uses for tools and mechanisms that grasp, clutch, squeeze, etc., and workers are taught how to use them and how not to.
Know the Dangers
Some pinch points are pretty obvious, such as machinery with oscillating or reciprocating parts. Generally, these will have guards, and workers are cautioned never to bypass the guards, as very serious injury—even amputation—can result.
Other dangers are less obvious and can cause injuries of varying severity, from something as simple as a blood blister up to and including death. For example:
- The rungs of an extension ladder can catch fingers, hands, or feet when sliding past each other.
- Closely stacked or stored crates or drums can pinch fingers or hands between each other or between themselves and a dolly.
- Haphazardly stacked material or clutter on workstations can fall and “pinch” a foot against the floor. Office workers can pinch their fingers when closing a file drawer.
- There have been cases of a backing-up vehicle crushing a person against a wall.
Note that these injuries are unlikely to be the fault of the ladder, the crate, the file drawer, or even the vehicle. Rather, they occur because a person has been careless—in the misuse or mishandling of tools, in failing to use appropriate protective equipment like gloves or safety shoes, or in not being constantly on the alert against potential hazards.
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Whenever a pinch point injury occurs in the workplace, it serves as an opportunity for supervisors to remind employees about the importance of avoiding similar dangers.
Training sessions might, for example, focus on the hazards present in the company’s particular operations. But where do you start?
Well, if you go to Safety.BLR.com and search on the words “pinch points,” you’ll get more than 100 results, including everything from a safety talk entitled “Beware the Pinch Point” to a white paper called “How to Avoid a Painful Pinch.” Other relevant results include PowerPoint®presentations, meetings, activities, Q&As, proposed and final rules, interpretations, and more.
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