We recently had an employee sustain a puncture type injury and laceration to his left hand while using a utility knife while trimming drywall overhead. Fortunately this was a no lost-time injury, however, the employee had multiple sutures and was placed on one-handed work restrictions which we are accommodating.
We want to report out on incidents like this to help prevent reoccurrences from happening to other employees.
We had installed drywall on ceilings with 24" x 48" openings for light fixtures. Apparently we were provided with the wrong size measurements for the drywall openings and had to go back and cut them open slightly larger. Our employee was performing the work while on a 6' portable step ladder. He had his left hand holding onto the overhead drywall grid to help get leverage and support. He had his fingers holding onto the overhead grid and his left palm was exposed. He was using a utility knife in his right hand to trim the opening to make it larger. He was pulling the utility knife in the direction towards his left palm. The utility knife slipped off the drywall and he stabbed the palm of his left hand with the razor end of the utility knife. He sustained a puncture type wound and a subsequent laceration which required multiple sutures. Fortunately there was no tendon or nerve damage.
The following are the corrective measures that our company came up with to help prevent this from happeing to you.
The first corrective measure that would have prevented this injury in the first place would be for I.D.I. to have been provided with the correct measurements for the drywall opening for the light fixutres. If we had the correct measurements we would not have had to gone back to create a larger opening. The second measure to help reduce the risk of the task would be to perform the work from a baker scaffold or a scissor lift. This type of equipment provides a more stable surface to get better leverage from and would be safer as an employee could fall after a stabbing type incident like this. The third measure is; when using a utility knife, cut away from your body. Don't have body parts, such as fingers and hands in the line of fire meaning in the direction of the of the way the utility knife blade is cutting towards. After completing your drywall cuts, secure the utility knife in your tool pouch with the blade pointed down towards the bottom of the pouch. Do not leave the utility knife with an exposed blade unattended. Lastly, gloves provide a layer of protection from laceration type hazards. If gloves can be worn and don't create a greater hazard, then gloves would be recommended to help reduce the risk of injury.
Below is a photo showing how trimming drywall should not be done as your hand is in the line of fire with the utility knife.
Please contact our Safety Director, Safety Pete with any questions at (847) 417-1689.
Have a Safe Day!