Blog Series – The Real Cost of Onsite Injuries: Cuts and Lacerations

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Onsite injuries are the bane of the construction and trade fields. From general laborers to specialized trades including electricians, roofers, HVAC installers and more, we all face different injuries that we may have to deal with on a daily basis.

One of the most difficult types of injuries to deal with is cuts and lacerations. They seem like they should be pretty easy to guard against, but in reality, they can be one of the most difficult simply due to the fact they can come from almost anywhere. That’s one of the features that makes them hard to report and track.

Cut, or Laceration?

They’re pretty much the same. Sometimes, they might even be called gashes or avulsions. It’s a wound where the skin is separated, and they can be jagged or smooth, deep or shallow. Superficial wounds can be taken care of with a first aid kit – disinfected, bandaged, and protected against further irritation. If it is shallow and small, can be cleaned, and stops bleeding after a few minutes, it’s not a major worry.

Those aren’t the ones we’re talking about. Those don’t lead to lost time, late schedules, and the need for visits from OSHA.

Most of the cuts and lacerations reported to safety officials are the ones that lead to hospital visits. These wounds require medical repair, and can involve jagged or uneven edges, continued bleeding after 10-15 minutes of direct pressure, or an object or dirt and debris that remains in the wound even after cleaning. They can be deep, exposing muscle, fat, tendons, and even bones. They can be in high-stress areas, such as the head or chest. Those are lacerations that need immediate, direct medical help. Stitches or staples are likely, and so is scarring.

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Common Causes of Cuts and Lacerations

It’s easy to see cuts and lacerations coming from the numerous sharp tools we use across the construction industry. When handled incorrectly, everything from utility knives, to razor blades, to axes and hatchets can give a nasty cut. These are the ones that are easy to see coming.

It’s the ones that aren’t that get you. Causes such as:

  • Scraping against sharp edges of vehicles
  • Scratches and abrasions from rough surfaces
  • Needle sticks
  • Puncture wounds from nails, tacks, and other hidden penetrating objects
  • Un-sanded edging on wood or burrs on metal work

While some of these causes can be addressed – e.g. burrs can be sanded down — it’s more of a case of being very aware of your surroundings for causes like scraping against vehicles and puncture wounds from hidden penetrating objects.

Many of the cuts and lacerations seen on construction sites occur on the upper limbs, with the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicating that, of the 3.6 million work-related injuries treated in emergency room every year, the hands and fingers are the most commonly treated body parts.

The Costs of Cuts and Lacerations

Even a small cut can lead to big costs, particularly if it goes untreated when it first occurs.

Simple stitches can cost up to $2,000 in a doctor’s visit – not a low price, given an economical pair of gloves might have prevented the injury. Even a simple butterfly bandage from a medical professional could be a $300 bill. Let’s not even get into laceration repair ($10,000) or a severed tendon which, estimated by the National Safety Council, could be a cost of $70,000 or more.

According to OSHA, the direct and indirect cost for laceration injuries is, on average, $36,472, with medical attention, sick pay, fines, delays, and insurance costs making up a little more than half of that. That’s just for the average cut or laceration – severe lacerations, or multiple lacerations in a single incident, can lead to higher costs.

For you, one of the biggest costs is delays. Lacerations can cause experienced workers to miss days, or even weeks, of work. A laceration in a specific spot can be even worse, as the worker may not be able to operate at their full capacity on return. This means moving personnel around, retraining, extending schedules, or even searching for a replacement if the laceration is bad enough to warrant.

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Preventing Cuts and Lacerations

Much of the prevention of cuts and lacerations comes from proper knowledge and education. There are plenty of steps you can take to avoid incidents, such as:

  • Don’t try and catch a falling cutting device
  • Keep your work area clear
  • Never leave an exposed blade unattended
  • Use a sharp blade – dull blades need more force to cut, meaning there is a higher likelihood of slipping
  • Never pull cutting devices towards you when cutting – always push away
  • Never place an open blade in your pocket
  • Dispose of old blades and needles in appropriate containers
  • Inspect machinery, equipment, and tools regularly, removing damaged equipment from service

However, a lot of the prevention of cuts and lacerations simply comes from providing proper training, paying attention, laying out safety procedures, and encouraging workers to take their time instead of rushing or taking short cuts.

There’s also plenty of personal protective equipment (PPE) out there that can protect each individual worker. Cut Rated Gloves protect fingers and hands while still providing the ability to work and to manipulate tools and materials. Kevlar sleeves provide cut protection for your arms, when the potential for the cutting edge to penetrate long-sleeved workwear exists. Hard hats prevents cuts and lacerations to the scalp from falling objects or bumping your head.

Despite your best efforts, cuts and lacerations may occur, so you need to be ready to respond. The appropriate First Aid Kits and Supplies ensure that you are ready to act, providing aid to the cut or laceration and stabilizing it until professional medical help can be provided.

Here at PowerPak, we know that the safety of you, your employees, and anyone who comes onto your worksite is of the utmost importance. Reach out to one of our team and find out how we can help you to prevent cuts, lacerations, and other onsite injuries, and help you and your team members avoid what could be a life-changing incident.

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