Canadian Occupational Safety

January/February 2020

Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) magazine is the premier workplace health and safety publication in Canada. We cover a wide range of topics ranging from office to heavy industry, and from general safety management to specific workplace hazards.

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Page 19 of 27

20 Canadian Occupational Safety I n August, a sawmill worker in British Colum- bia was changing the band saw on a 2.7-metre-tall head rig. As the band saw was raised out of the saw pit by an overhead crane hoist, the saw detached from the hoist and fell to the ground, striking the worker, who suffered lacerations to the head and arms. In the same month, another B.C. worker was unloading scrap metal from the back of a truck. The worker slipped and fell, and a piece of metal punctured one of the worker's arms. Occupational arm injuries are extremely common and occur across a range of industries. In the United States, statistics collected by the National Safety Council show that, in 2017, arm injuries accounted for almost five per cent of injuries involv- ing days away from work. Yet, while arms are vulnerable to almost all the same hazards as hands, dangers to the arms tend to be overlooked. From lac- erations to burns, protective sleeves can help prevent or reduce the worst effects of many injuries in the workplace. Protective sleeves are manufactured in a variety of styles. Some cover only the forearm (from the wrist to the elbow), while others cover the full arm, from the wrist to the underarm and almost to the shoulder. Cuffs may be knit or elastic. Some have Velcro closures. They may also come with a thumb hole, which holds the sleeve in place and prevents it riding up the arm when the wearer is lifting objects or reaching up. The CSA Group does not have stan- dards relating to protective sleeves. Still, employers should provide sleeves whenever the risk assessment indicates the presence of a hazard that could cause injury to a worker's arms. Sleeves provide protection against cuts, abrasions, punctures, heat, burns, electric shocks, UV rays, sparks, toxic dust irritants, chemicals and other con- taminants. Protective arm coverings can also be used to keep the forearm and a worker's shirt sleeves clean from dust and dirt. Arm injuries often occur when workers brush up against or bump into sharp or hot objects, or when they're holding parts on their arms. Sleeves may be required in a wide range of industries, says Melanie Charuk, occupational health and safety manager for the Parks and Roads Services Branch of the City of Edmonton. These include agricul- ture, forestry, health care, oil and gas, mining, manufacturing, construction and utilities. Moreover, they are some- times needed by those who work in wholesale retail, depending on what materials they handle. Municipal governments, given the variety of workers they employ, may also need to provide protective sleeves. "Protective sleeves are worn by employees who are at risk of injur- ing their arms from performing work tasks where they're putting their hands into a line of fire or into a hidden area where there are sharp or protruding objects," Charuk says. "In our city, for example, [these risks occur] in our forestry or horticulture operations, where we're working with sharp twigs, and in our welding and auto body operations, and also when we're handling any type of chemical products, where we need to have body protection." When there are plant visitors, company policies vary: Some always require visitors to wear protective sleeves; others make it mandatory only if the visitor's regular clothing does not include long sleeves. Sean Sweeney, vice-president and general manager for Ansell's mechanical strategic business unit at the Iselin, N.J.-based company, says a risk assessment should be done to determine whether or not visitors may be exposed to any risks that would require sleeves to be worn. "It's important in any plant visit to engage with the on-site safety direc- tor to determine what the optimal suite of PPE should be when visiting a plant," he says. IF GLOVES, THEN SLEEVES? Some manufactures say that when a situation requires workers to wear safety gloves, there should also be a requirement for protective sleeves. Whether the need is for protection against common hazards, such as cuts or burns, or against injury in more specific applications, such as material handling, the risk is not just to the hand but to the arm as well. "We see sleeves as an extension of the protective glove," Sweeney says. "The majority of applications where sleeves are utilized are where you see the need for highly cut-resistant solutions and for thermal protection solutions. The risk here is not just to the hand but to the hand and the arm. And if you can imagine some of the applications where individuals are moving large sheets of metal and glass, the risk goes up the arm and should be considered as such." Derek Coughlin, automotive and metal specialist at Acton, Ont.-based Superior Glove, says that while it is generally true that workers who require hand protection also require arm protection, there are exceptions. "If workers need cut protection in their hands but also need dexterity — they're sitting in their chair and just moving their hands — then generally they wouldn't need a sleeve for that. For people working on circuit boards, for example, there are a lot of sharp edges. But they'll generally not wear sleeves," he says. By Linda Johnson ARMING for safety Protective sleeves are essential safety equipment for many workers and can reduce serious injuries

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