Work Smart. Work Safe.
Keep your "Heads Up" and work safe!

Keeping a sharp eye on your tools

By: Mary McIntyre

I have to admit I was nervous when I watched the demonstration on how to use a scalpel at a summer job I landed at an orthodontist lab. I had grown confident with the traditional tools, handling the instruments with the ease of a knife and fork. My job was to trim the dental moulds for the technician to work with. The very idea of getting hurt in the lab seemed silly up to this point.

Before using the scalpel, I learned how to dull the surgical blade’s razor-sharp edge. This move made the scalpel a safer tool and the work easier. At first, the nicks on my hands just proved a good reminder of why it was important to follow this safety step.

In time, my skill and confidence improved to the point where I was taking risks to save time.scalpel

Cutting corners

One day, as I clicked the new blade into place, I remember thinking, “There’s no time to dull this blade; I can get to the end of this pile of work faster.”

With a sharp blade to work with, the pile of moulds grew smaller at a much quicker pace. However, skipping an important safety step proved to be a stupid risk. The blade ended up slipping past the mould‘s edge and carved a clean line through my palm.

My poor attitude towards “being safe at work” not only left me with a gaping wound but it also meant a trip to the hospital and almost cost me the use of my hand.

I went back to work but was able to perform only a small portion of my job. Working as my bandaged hand throbbed with every movement was awkward and difficult. Over and over, I was asked the same question by everyone at work: “What made you think you didn’t have to dull the scalpel blade?”

Was it a false sense of confidence? No, the real reason was painfully obvious. I was new to the job and inexperienced. I took the training seriously but within a short period chose to improvise. It was a choice that showed clearly I did not understand that someone, with years of lab experience, had created the safety protocol … to keep me safe.

I learned an important lesson the day I suffered my injury. I hope my story will help you avoid injuries at your worksite.

Workplace safety—it’s there for you.

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