In most jobs, a worker's most important tool is their hands, which is why hand safety in the workplace is so important. Hand injuries ranging from small cuts to amputation make up a large percentage of workplace injuries. It is crucial for workers to know to protect themselves — and know that workers’ compensation is there to pay for the cost of an injury.
Types of hand injuries at work
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, every year, over 100,000 American workers miss at least one day of work because of hand injuries. The hands are intricate and can be damaged in many ways, including:
- Lacerations – These are cuts that if deep enough can tear flesh. Significant lacerations can cause long-term nerve or tendon damage.
- Crushed hands – When your hand is stuck between heavy equipment and the wall or floor, it can be crushed. Crush injuries, if severe enough, can cause permanent damage.
- Avulsion fractures – This kind of fracture happens when a small piece of bone attached to a tendon is pulled away from the main part of the bone. This injury is common in fingers. While it can be a simple injury, it is possible that the force can detach the entire finger.
- Burns and scalds – A worker's hands are often the first part of the body that touches a hot surface. Burn injuries can be moderate to severe and lead to permanent scarring and nerve damage. There is also a high risk of infection.
- Punctures – Sharp objects and tools can cause serious damage when they puncture your hand. Nails, needles, and knives can penetrate your hand completely.
- Amputation – Severe hand injuries can cause loss of the entire hand. Workers may lose hands in machinery accidents, vehicle accidents, and power tool accidents.
Not all hand injuries happen in a single incident. The hands can also be damaged by repetitive use, leading to conditions such as tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, stenosing tenosynovitis (trigger finger), and other repetitive strain injuries (RSI).
What to do to prevent hand injuries at work
Your employer has the responsibility to set rules and manage the hazards you may face on the clock. They should first and foremost make sure all workers are provided with personal protective equipment (PPE), taking into consideration size, comfort, thermal protection, and other requirements. Employers should also offer external education about tools workers may have to use. This can include training programs as well as making sure safety tips are placed around the workplace.
Workers' comp for hand injuries
Workers' compensation pays for the full cost of medical treatment for hand injuries sustained on the job, including surgery, physical therapy, and any other procedures that may be needed, as well as medication, medical devices, and so on. If your hand injury keeps you out of work for a period of time after the injury, then workers' comp also replaces a portion of your lost wages.
Under Ohio’s workers’ compensation law, workers who suffer an amputation or permanent loss of use of a hand can claim scheduled loss compensation, according to the Bureau of Workers' Compensation. Depending on the injury, the state has a set schedule of the weeks the employee will be paid. The statute determines the maximum weekly payment for hand injuries at 175 weeks. This maximum is then modified by the percentage of loss; for example, if an injury causes you to lose 20 percent of the use of one hand, then you would get 20 percent of 175, or 35 weeks of compensation. There are many nuances to scheduled loss compensation, but an experienced workers' compensation attorney can answer any questions you may have.
In Ohio, loss of both hands is considered a total disability that qualifies for permanent total disability (PTD) benefits, which are payable for life.
Call today to talk to an experienced workers' comp lawyer
Hand injuries at work are sometimes overlooked. But when ignored, what was once a simple injury could turn into lifelong damage. It's important to learn about your legal rights so you know the kind and amount of compensation you should be awarded.
The workers' compensation attorneys at Hochman & Plunkett Co., L.P.A will put your best interests first. We know how the worker's compensation system works in Ohio and will help you every step of the way. Contact us and schedule a free consultation today.