The skin on a worker’s hands and arms is at risk from cut and abrasion hazards in many industries. Whether you’re at risk from deep cuts called lacerations or friction-based abrasion injuries, the right kind of PPE — namely, cut-resistant safety gloves — can keep workers safe and out of the hospital.
Your skin is designed to protect your body from the hazards of the outside world, but that doesn’t mean it’s invulnerable. Cuts, scrapes, and other injuries can happen while your skin is protecting you, and these kinds of injuries can happen more frequently in a lot of industries where you work with your hands. So frequently, in fact, that lacerations are one of the most common workplace injuries, accounting for more injuries than chemical injuries and thermal burns combined as of 2020.
While some cuts are easy enough to treat with your office first aid kit, others require medical treatment in a doctor’s office or even an emergency room. Millions of laceration cases require professional intervention, as open wounds need to be closed by a doctor. It’s important to treat injuries as soon as possible to prevent infections, scarring, hospitalization, or in some extreme cases, death.
One of the best methods of reducing workplace hand related injuries is to use proper equipment to keep your hands safe. In many industries, this will consist of cut-resistant safety gloves. While there are variations in how the gloves are designed and the specific types of injuries they protect against, cut-resistant safety gloves are made to reduce the risk of lacerations, abrasions, and other skin injuries.
Lacerations vs. Abrasions
While the words “cut” and “laceration” are used interchangeably in some contexts, there is an important distinction to make when talking about workplace injuries. Cuts damage the skin; lacerations not only damage the skin but go through to the tissues underneath (tendons, ligaments, and bones). They bleed heavily and look like deep cuts, gashes, or tears in the skin. Lacerations are generally caused by knives, tools, and other equipment or machinery accidents. They can happen anywhere on the body, but the hands and arms are most vulnerable because they’re often right in the area with the sharp instruments. If you or someone at work has this injury, get to the hospital or call 911 as soon as possible.
Abrasions are another form of hand or skin injury that can happen at work and can happen in similar contexts as cuts and lacerations. Abrasions happen when the skin comes into contact with rough surfaces through rubbing, scraping, or friction. Because only the top layers of skin are affected by abrasions, they generally don’t bleed as much and heal faster than lacerations do. However, they’re still skin injuries and should be cared for properly.
Treating Hand Lacerations at Work
Minor cuts and abrasions can be treated at work as long as you have access to a first aid kit and clean water. Clean injuries with soap and water to wash out as much bacteria, dust, and dirt as possible before treating them with antibiotic ointment and covering them with a bandage and/or gauze. Bandages should be clean and changed regularly. Deeper lacerations will require more attention before you get to the doctor.
Stop any heavy bleeding as much as possible by applying pressure and elevating the wounded area. If this doesn’t stop the bleeding, try applying pressure to a nearby pressure point. Avoid using tourniquets unless it won’t be possible to get treatment for several hours. If the laceration is red, warm to the touch, bleeds excessively for a long time, or has drainage, it may be infected and needs professional attention. Also, get professional attention if you have lost tension or feeling in the affected area because there might be a cut tendon or nerve.Staying Safe from Lacerations and Abrasions
While workplace safety measures should be practiced before workers are given cut-resistant safety gloves, these gloves can be a literal lifesaver in the event of an accident. PPE, like cut-resistant gloves, adds another layer between the sharp or abrasive objects and your skin while you’re working, which decreases the chances of serious injury. When buying cut-resistant gloves, look for the ANSI rating — the higher the number, the higher level of cut protection that the gloves offer.
This doesn’t mean that the highest number is the best choice for all jobs, though. Gloves that offer high enough protection for workers who handle sheet metal are probably not going to be dextrous enough for anyone who needs to handle small objects that’s not going to come into contact with that level of cut hazard at work. Your gloves should also have features relevant to the kind of work that you’re doing, like having textured palms and fingertips that let you grip tools in wet or slippery conditions, thermal insulation for extremely hot or cold conditions, or easy to clean or dispose of if you’re working with food or in a biomedical setting. Finally, cut-resistant safety gloves should also be comfortable enough to wear in the conditions they’ll be used in. It doesn’t matter how protective your safety gloves are if you’re not wearing them. Look at your industry’s relevant safety standards and the hazards specific to your job site when deciding what kind of cut protection is appropriate for you or your workers.
PK Safety Cut-resistant Work Gloves
For over 75 years, PK Safety has been in the business of keeping workers safe. We only carry the products and brands we trust to keep us safe. We personally vet every product we sell to ensure that it will benefit our customers. We can make personalized recommendations and help you to select the safety gloves appropriate for the job. For more information, our website and its archive of content will always be available, or you can talk to one of our safety supply experts by calling 800.829.9580 or using our online contact form.