By Esther Gicharu | Sunday Jul 21, 2019

My husband recently narrated to me a real life experience he had while he was a student awhile back. He is left-handed. One time while he was sitting for exams, the invigilator called him out and made him walk out because according to him my husband’s sitting angle incriminated him and he must have been cheating in the exam.  Furious, he tried to explain, that he was a left handed and that’s why he was seated the way he was. The problem here is he was using the wrong tool and it was costing his integrity. The unfortunate thing is that my husband didn’t know that he was using the wrong tool and neither did the invigilator know this, creating a lot of confusion. 

A variety of studies suggest that 10% of the world population is left-handed. As in the school scene, left handers face some other challenges in their workplaces in their routine life. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence showing that equipment and machinery is nearly always designed for right handers. It means that a tool has built-in advantage for the right-hand over the left. These tools fall in the category of factory machinery such as circular saws and chain saws, office tools such as computer mouse and scissors, kitchen tools such as knives, to mention but a few.

A 1989 study published in the American Journal of Public Health, found a higher rate of accident related injuries in the left handed people. According to another study, more than 2,500 left handed people are killed every year because of using products designed to be used with the right hand. 

Living in a society with little information about left-handers, their special needs related to their handedness is not fully understood. The workplaces therefore do not cater for their special needs. The results however are disastrous. In writing this article, the hope is, to disseminate knowledge on the issues surrounding left handers, and thereon, start with small steps of considering the left handers in our workplaces when they use equipment designed for the majority of right handers. 

Did you know that almost all doors are designed to open with the right hand and that hand rails are always on the right? This isn’t generally a problem until you’re carrying something heavy and have to switch hands just to open the door. Did you know that a circular saw blows sawdust to the right? When held in the left hand, it blows the sawdust right in the face of the left-hander. Did you know measuring tapes can be hard to read for lefties but there are left-handed measuring tapes available? It is one of the few left handed tools around. 

Your left handed employee/ colleague is not clumsy, they are just trying to adapt in the world of right-handers. Some have done it excellently-so that the difficulties faced by left-handers have gone unnoticed over time.  It would however be a win-win situation for both the workplaces and the left-handers if the interests of the left handers were looked into. Not only would it reduce injuries and save lives, it would also increase productivity and work efficiency.

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