Jewelry Jeopardy


December 1, 2008

Eliminate the bling to improve safety at the mine site.

Wearing jewelry is hazardous to miners who work with machinery and power tools. A conveyor belt or pinch point can pull a finger off with a ring, causing severe injury and disfigurement. According to recent Department of Labor statistics, more than 11,000 people are hurt in accidents involving jewelry each year; almost 90 percent are male.

Other government statistics indicate that the fourth major cause of on-the-job injury is machine-related accidents – getting caught by moving machine parts. Although mechanics, machine operators, electricians, laborers, and truck drivers were the higher risk occupations, anyone working in the mining industry is potentially at risk.

Accepted guidelines for working around moving equipment – any machine that rotates, slides, or presses – are that miners should always use safety shields, guards, and lock-out procedures and never wear jewelry or loose-fitting clothing that could get caught in the moving equipment. A dangling necklace is an obvious hazard, but even a wedding ring can get caught.

Wedding rings are the source of some hang-ups – both literally and figuratively. Wedding bands, even if relatively narrow and tight fitting, still cause accidents, but some people believe that they should always wear their wedding rings as sacred symbols of marriage. Some spouses pressure their mates to wear their rings. Some people who remove their rings for work also often lose them and this causes marital strife. This is the primary reason that the government strongly recommends that workers not wear jewelry rather than officially banning it. Whether or not to wear a wedding ring remains a personal choice, but, clearly, a ring-less spouse is better than a fingerless one, or worse.

The Occupational Safety Health Administration’s regulations covering machine guarding or hand and portable power tools do not forbid workers from wearing jewelry to work, although many safety publications advise employers and workers to ensure that workers aren’t wearing jewelry when operating these kinds of devices – even when also wearing gloves.

As part of the general duty clause to protect workers, Section 5, of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers are held responsible for the safety of their workers, which can be interpreted to extend to warning them of the hazards of wearing jewelry and loose clothing. The clause reads:

A.    Each employer:

  • Shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;
  • Shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.

B.     Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.

If the employer recognizes that wearing loose chains, jewelry, loose clothing, or other items is likely to cause serious harm, he is obligated to address this hazard under the general duty clause through training and communication. A training program should provide guidelines for safe operation of machinery and power tools, including straightforward advice about not wearing jewelry or loose clothing of any type. Any dangling object is a major safety issue around power tools.

A recent issue of Safety Smart! recommends the following precautions:

  • Wear snug clothing when working around moving machinery. Button sleeves and tuck in shirts and pant legs. Avoid wearing scarves and drawstrings. Be aware that even gloves can present an entanglement hazard.
  • Never wear jewelry. The hazards of neck chains are obvious, but even a ring can catch and result in amputation of a finger or a worse injury.
  • Long hair should be tied or restrained with a hairnet. Hair simply tucked inside a hard hat can come loose and get caught in moving parts. Even a long beard can be a hazard in a machine work environment.
  • Make sure all equipment is properly guarded to prevent entanglement and other machine injuries. Report any missing or defective guards and shields to your supervisor.
  • Never remove or block a machine guard.
  • When doing adjustment or repairs, follow the correct lockout and tagout procedures, and replace guards before returning the machine to service.
  • Know how to quickly locate the emergency stop and start controls on all machinery in your work area.

Information contained in this article was provided through the Safety & Health Committee of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association.

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