"I am the only woman working in the shop at my company. The men have bigger hands than I do, so I keep my small gloves in my toolbox when I'm not using them. One day, I was going to help a co-worker quickly and just grabbed one of the other guys' gloves on the way over, thinking it would be no big deal. The gloves were much too big for my hands, and when I set down the large aluminum frame, the tips of my glove got caught under the frame against the ground. I had to get another guy to come help lift the frame to get my hand out without tipping and damaging the frame. I realized that I should always be wearing the appropriate size gloves to avoid the excess material being caught in or under materials."
Feeling the Pinch
Pinch point is a technical term for any area in which someone can get injured by getting caught between the moving and stationary parts of an object or a machine.
Pinch point injuries are quite common. It's estimated that about 125,000 people suffer from them every year, and they range from mild to fatal. Caught in and caught in between injuries are consistently featured as one of OSHA's Fatal Four. And non-fatal pinch point injuries can leave you with bruises and cuts, and on the serious end of the scale it might even require amputating a limb.
Since they're so common and can cause serious harm, safety professionals across all industries need to take steps to protect their workers from pinch point injuries.
Quick Tips for Avoiding Pinch Point Injuries
- Follow the dress code – Wearing the right kind of clothing when working in areas where pinch injuries can occur is critically important. Pant legs and shirt sleeves shouldn't be too long or too loose. Shirts should be tucked into the pants to reduce the risk of them getting caught in moving machinery.
- Leave the jewelry home – All jewelry should be removed, especially dangling earrings, necklaces, and rings.
- Tuck away long hair – Long hair should be tied back, and braids and pony tails should be kept at the back of the head and secured. Hair falling forward or down toward the machinery could get caught in its pinch points.
- Wear your safety gear – The right personal protective gear for the job should be kept on at all times. Make sure safety gloves fit properly to avoid getting them caught (consult this sizing chart to make sure you get the right size).
- Conduct a pre-inspection – Inspect machinery for any potential hazards before anyone operates it. Make a safety plan and follow through with it during the entire time the machine is in operation.
- Stay alert and focused – Anyone operating equipment should stay totally focused on the job at hand and keep their eyes focused on the moving parts. Minimize distractions in the work environment as much as possible.
- Use machine guards – Make sure that the right guard has been installed on the equipment and make sure that it is fitted properly. If you notice missing or damaged safety guards during your pre-inspection, don't put the machinery into operation.
- Know how to deal with a jam – Make sure you learn how to safely deal with the machine if it becomes jammed. Before you clean or fix jammed equipment, make sure it has been turned off and come to a complete stop. Familiarize yourself with the lockout/tagout procedures (see Understanding Lockout/Tagout Safety to learn more).
- Look beyond the machinery – Pinch points aren't just found in industrial equipment. Machinery pinch points can cause serious injuries, but so can a stack of heavy items. Even getting your hand or foot jammed in the door might cause enough damage to require medical attention.
OSHA has several regulations for machine guarding. Complying with these will reduce the risk of pinch point injuries in your workplace. Start with 29 CFR 1910.212, which deals with general regulations for machine guarding on any kind of equipment. Then, look into regulations specific to your industry.
Pinch points also include areas where the whole body can get caught between two moving parts of machinery, or between a machine and a stationary object or wall. Make sure employees are positioned in a way that keeps them safe from crushing injuries while working.
If you can't figure out a position that doesn't leave them exposed to this hazard, reassess the work process and consider whether there are some features of the work environment that could be rearranged to keep everyone safe.