It is estimated around 10% of the global population is left-handed, which means there are potentially 6 million left-handed people in the UK alone. As today is left-handed day, we wanted get people thinking about the safety management implications that come with having left-handed workers.
Powered machinery and power tools can be dangerous, causing thousands of injuries a year. This is a well-known fact (see https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/industry/manufacturing.pdf for statistics on fatality/injury surrounding powered machinery in the manufacturing sector) which has prompted stricter regulations on how machinery is operated to keep workers as safe as possible. Though safety measures are constantly improving, there is one danger, we feel may be overlooked time and time again: left-handed people using right-handed machinery.
As most of the population is right-handed, manufacturers produce tools and machinery specifically tailored for right-handed people. Placement of safety guards, buttons, blade cutting direction, emergency shut down buttons etc. are usually defined for the right-handed person.
For left-handed people, the safety features designed for right-hand user protection are at best ineffective and at worst dangerous. Think for a moment about if you’ve ever seen a left handed person (or been that person yourself) trying to use right handed scissors and vice versa; its incredibly difficult to use equipment when it’s not designed for how your hands naturally operate.
This information prompts the question: how do we keep left-handed people safe?
The first step should be to ascertain how many of your staff are left-handed and if the equipment they use is suitable for them to use safely. It is shocking how few employers ask these questions in the first place. Another way is to invest in equipment & machinery suitable for left-handed people use, though still quite uncommon, more and more manufacturers are making left-handed equipment. All of which can be deemed to be reasonable adjustments, after all it would be impossible not hire left-handed people all together because you did not take their needs in to account.
At Fast R Solutions, we think the dangers to left-handed workers should be included in safety risk assessments ensuring the risk is properly evaluated. Changes can then be implemented to make sure your left-handed workers are safe.