Working In a Right-Hand World: When It Comes to Safety and Ergonomics, Don’t Forget Your “Lefties”

By Mike Burk

Many benefits come with participation in our industry’s trade organizations. Of course, the main takeaway includes keeping current with ever-changing technologies, standards, and regulations. As an attendee, you also have the opportunity to go to locations you might otherwise never have a reason to visit. While attending an event in San Francisco, I came across Lefty O’Doul’s Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge on Union Square. The bar and restaurant was a testimony to Francis O’Doul. There, I purchased the book “Lefty.”

“Lefty” tells the story of Francis O’Doul, who started his professional baseball career in 1917, pitching for a farm team of the Pacific Coast Leagues, the San Francisco Seals. He began with the Des Moines team of the Western League. That season, two fingers on his right catching hand were broken by a batted ball. That fracture did not heal correctly and his fingers were permanently bent. The injury hampered his catching ability but did not interfere with his pitching skills. The next year, Francis moved up to the Pacific Coast League Seals where, being the only southpaw, he was tagged with the name Lefty. The following year he made his major league debut with the New York Yankees, then went on to play for the Red Sox, Phillies, Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants. The book reminded me of the difficulties left-handed people experience in our right-handed world.

Weighing the Differences

Baseball books and legends are full of theories about the advantages and disadvantages of left-handed players. In his book, “Men at Work,” George Will writes that left-handed batters get their revenge when they’re at bat. “At the plate they stand a step closer to first and the momentum of their swing causes them to uncoil moving towards first.”

We do truly live in a right-handed world. And on that note, what have you done to ensure that your  left-handed associates are safe in your facility? Most of us have heard about left-handed scissors to make the work of cutting easier and less stressful on a lefthander’s hand and wrist. Have you investigated other tools and equipment to reduce muscular stress and to keep these workers safe?

Newer chops saws have ambidextrous designs that allow safe use by everyone. Left-handed tape measures make it easier for accurate measurements. Box cutters are available where the button that slides the blade out is located on the right side of the cutter, making it safer for left-handers. Left-handed measuring cups have the measurement levels on the opposite side, so they are easy to read. Most cutting knives are serrated for right-handed people, on the wrong side for lefties. Look for knives serrated for your left-handed employees. Most pocket or folding knives are cumbersome for lefties, but some manufacturers make left-handed folding knives.

If you are right-handed and don’t believe that tools can be difficult for left-handers, visit the production floor. Grab a tape measure and take some measurements using your left hand. There are most likely cut off saws in your manufacturing facility. Try to cut a section of vinyl extrusion on an older saw using your left hand. Try to open the blade of a box cutter with your left hand.

In a time when we need to eliminate barriers for every employee we can get, keep up to date on available lefty gear and equipment. Check what’s available, then talk with your left-handed associates to understand their needs and struggles. Take the extra steps to keep them safe in this right-handed world.

Mike Burk is the North American technical representative for Sparklike.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

DWM Magazine

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