Have you ever wondered why sporting referees and umpires force your kids or grandkids to remove all their jewelry and wristbands just before sporting events?
Many people are unaware of hazards associated with wearing jewelry such as rings, earrings, bracelets, and necklaces at work and home, during your everyday activities.
The most dangerous piece of jewelry that you will ever wear is your wedding ring. Being married I realize that wedding rings have special meaning and are worn on the 4th finger of the left hand to symbolize eternity, fidelity, and constant love and commitment.
But they also represent extreme danger.
To shock and to establish my point: I was safety manager for a 100+ regional retail company in the Midwest in the mid 90’s. A young retail buyer rushing out the front door to catch a cab to the airport got his ring finger caught in a simple push-handle of the front glass doors at our corporate offices. The force of his momentum caused his finger to separate from the rest of his hand as he landed just outside the door on the concrete. Needless to say he missed his flight.
I too once caught my wedding ring on a mall exit door and it stopped me dead in my tracks, nearly breaking my finger. My ring still bears a small dent as evidence.
But how does one amputate one’s finger rushing out an average door like those we all walk through every day? I was not believing the accident report. I checked out the door thinking that the push-door handle must have had some sharp edges. Instead it had a dull smooth lip of an edge where the ring was caught.
These kinds of accidents happen more often than you would imagine. There’s even a name for them — ring avulsion injuries. If you Google the term just don’t do it right after lunch –as you have been forewarned.
Many of these accidents tend to happen more in an industrial or agriculture setting. Even my 91-year-old grandmother has lived most of her adult life with only seven fingers. She lost the other three inside an old hand fed corn stalk shredder down on the family farm in Grayson County.
Since the invention of electricity, electricians have been trained to remove all metal jewelry to avoid being electrocuted on the job. In the industrial setting many of my
clients have instituted safe working practices, requiring workers such as machinists, welders, mechanics and other labor-intensive occupations to remove rings while
performing their job.
But these types of ring avulsion accidents also happen during everyday activities in backyards, shopping centers, and parks when victims do not have the sense of being at risk. They are psychologically devastating to the victims as there have been several reports of people losing ring fingers while dunking basketballs, jumping over chain link fences, jumping off playground swings, snagging rings on protruding nails or reaching for something while falling from an elevated areas, etc.
Statistical data indicates that these accidents are happening to twice as many men as women and with such supporting data many men have chosen to not wear their wedding rings. Eight out of ten women will then in turn also tell you that the real reason all these guys go ring-less, is so that they can flirt with unsuspecting single women. I realize that the “Naked-Finger-Houdini” act does happen for such purposes, but several men who choose to go without wearing their wedding ring insist that they are doing it for more harmless and safer reasons..
And, ladies, before you chew me out for giving him another excuse, it’s important to know that injuries caused by wearing wedding rings are among the most severe hand accidents and are the hardest to treat, according to hand surgeons. Even if the finger is not amputated, the skin oftentimes is partially or totally de-gloved from the bone.
The Journal of Hand Surgery published an article titled “Ring Avulsion Injuries: A Biomechanical Study,” which was a simulation study using a suspended cadaver arm
with a ring attached to the ring finger. The study found that it only took 35 pounds of pressure to cause a Class III amputation to the ring finger, proving that in addition to being a symbol of your enduring love, that small wedding ring is one large hazard.
A couple of years after that incident in St. Louis, I found myself in little town of Wabash, Indiana, calling on a nursing home client. It was probably one of the weirdest and most unusual workdays of my career. By early afternoon I had run across four different people who were missing fingers. One was the administrator of the nursing home; the other was a maintenance person, then the waiter at lunch and lastly the gas station attendant as I was heading out of town. It was if I had become the unwitting character in the prelude to bad horror movie, and by the time I left town I must say I was walking around with both hands in my pockets.
The point is just about everybody knows or has met a person who has had a finger amputation.. If you were talk with each of them, the majority would tell you their injury was preventable if they had just exercised enough caution.
Many of you probably think that it would be too hard to engineer out the hazard in a ring, but it really isn’t. Hand surgeons have proposed solutions to the jewelry industries and have suggested a variety of options such as breakaway wedding rings. However, there hasn’t been enough concern or uproar from consumers to force any real change.
If you work in a high-risk position where you may be at risk of losing a finger or two, you may want to ask your insurance agent to add an accidental life and dismemberment rider on your Life Insurance policy or ask about adding the coverage on your employer benefit package. As always, be sure to read the fine print within the policy to make sure that such amputation accidents are not excluded.
As a safety and loss control consultant who has only removed his wedding ring once or twice this year, my first instinct is to engineer out or remove the hazard, and then try and live by example, as I preach to my clients. But being an equally trained married man of 25 years, I am a little bit more concerned about the secondary injuries from getting caught not wearing my wedding ring. I am willing to take my chances.
Keven Moore is director of Risk Management Services for Roeding Insurance (www.roedinginsurance.com). He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both the Lexington and Northern Kentucky offices. Keven can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.