Hand injuries at work — what do the statistics say?

Friday, 27 January, 2023

Hand injuries at work — what do the statistics say?

Workers in any industry or workplace can experience injuries to the hand, wrist, fingers and thumb — ranging from sprains and strains, to fractures, cuts, open wounds and amputations.

According to the Safe Work Australia ‘Work-related hand and wrist injuries in Australia’ report, two of the main industries in which hand and wrist injuries appear to be a problem are the manufacturing industry and the construction industry. The report stated that using a sharp-edged tool, particularly a knife, is the single task resulting in the highest number of work-related hand and wrist injuries.1

Other common causes of injury to the hand include:

  • Hands caught, crushed, jammed or pinched between objects
  • Contact with powered hand tools and machinery
  • A foreign body or object entering through the skin
  • Contact with woodworking and forming machinery
  • Struck by thrown, projected or falling object
  • Contact with non-powered hand tool
  • Contact with metalworking machinery
  • Hands caught, crushed or jammed in doors
  • Contact with powered lawnmower

Workplace hand injuries are among the most common in NSW. From the period 1 January 2019 to 29 July 2019, icare received 13,317 claims relating to arm, shoulder and hand injuries.2

Similarly, during 2018/19, there were 4786 hand injury claims lodged in the WA workers compensation scheme, which accounted for 18% of all claims lodged.3

In 2022, WorkSafe Victoria accepted 137 claims for workplace amputation injuries, with more than 150 body parts amputated, including at least 127 fingers or thumbs. Digits caught or crushed in machinery or severed while using a saw accounted for about one-third of all amputation claims.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said employers needed to do more to ensure workers were kept safe from the risk of traumatic injuries due to unsafe work practices.

“The staggering number of workers who have lost limbs and digits from preventable incidents is simply unacceptable,” she said.

“No one should suffer such horrific, life-changing injuries at work.”

1. https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/system/files/documents/1702/workrelatedhandandwristinjuriesinaustralia_2008_pdf.pdf

2. https://www.icare.nsw.gov.au/injured-or-ill-people/workplace-injuries/what-are-the-most-common-work-injuries-in-nsw#gref

3. https://www.workcover.wa.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Statistical-Note-Hand-injuries-Feb-2020-BISstatrep.pdf

Image credit: iStock.com/VioletaStoimenova

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