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Lost time injury (LTI): Severed tendon

A member reports an incident in which a person suffered a severed tendon, resulting in several months off work. An electrical cable with a thick rubber sheath was being prepared for termination during a mobilisation. A pair of electrical side cutters was being used to cut back the rubber insulating material from the end of the cable being terminated. When cutting, the side cutters were also being pushed into the cable to aid the cut. After three successful cuts the side cutters slipped, stabbing the left hand that was holding the cable. The stab caused a puncture wound to the injured person’s middle finger just above the first knuckle.

It was clear immediately following the incident that on clenching the left hand the injured person’s finger did not move. On further investigation at the hospital, it was confirmed that the injured person had a severed tendon. Surgery was carried out to reconnect the tendon. It was anticipated that the injured person would be off work for 2-3 months.

Following investigation of the incident and its causes, our member noted the following:

  • The injury was caused by the incorrect use of sharp hand tools. Although side cutters are often used when stripping back cable, their correct use is for cutting electrical cable or long thin items such as cable ties, at 90°. Side cutters are not specifically designed to cut in the way that scissors do, which is the way they were being used in this incident;
  • The task was considered to be part of the basic skill set of an experienced engineer and was not subject to risk assessment or toolbox talks.
  • The injured person was not wearing gloves when carrying out this task since gloves would have restricted manual dexterity;
  • Cutting towards the body (left hand) meant that when the cutters slipped the hand was vulnerable to injury;
  • A safe cable stripping tool had not been considered and such a tool was not available onboard the vessel;
  • The use of side cutters had replaced the previous practice of using a Stanley knife for this task as a result of restrictions placed on the use of knives.

Our member drew the following lessons from this incident:

  • Even tasks which are classed as part of the basic skill set of an individual should be reviewed occasionally to ensure good and safe practice and the use of the most appropriate tools;
  • Tools should only be used for the purpose for which they are designed;
  • If it is necessary to remove personal protective equipment (PPE) to carry out a task then that PPE is not appropriate to the task.

Our member made the following recommendations and corrective actions:

  • Worksites were reviewed to ensure that the appropriate tools were being used;
  • There was a review of the use of protective gloves at the worksite to ensure they were appropriate for the tasks being carried out;
  • Personnel were reminded and encouraged to engage in personal last minute risk assessments and to pause before carrying out a task to ensure that they have all the correct tools and PPE and that it is safe to carry on and that nothing has changed.

Safety Event

Published: 27 September 2010
Download: IMCA SF 06/10

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