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Saving Your Own Skin – Skin Diseases in the Workplace
Work related skin diseases can be caused by many factors. They are common in many of the industries, although there are jobs which are considered to be high risk. Skin diseases are not only a cause of suffering for the affected person, they also lead to higher expenses for employers who must cope with increased absences, sick pay, compensation costs, hiring and training a replacement.
The high risks occupations are:
- Health services
- Metal machining
- Vehicle repair
You may also experience skin problems in other industries. A common cause of skin problems in the workplace are caused by being exposed to chemicals and other substances, sun exposure and also by having wet hands for extended periods of time. The most common condition is dermatitis as well as urticarial and skin cancer. These problems can be prevented through the actions of employees and their employers.
Avoid, Protect and Check Approach
If you would like to protect your skin at work, or are an employer looking to improve working conditions you can follow the approach known as APC, avoid protect and check.
- Try and avoid the direct contact between skin and substances, products or wet conditions
- Introduce control measures which may include special equipment or tools to distance yourself from the problematic conditions
- Try and find alternative substances which are less damaging to skin
- Use protective clothing and equipment such as gloves and sleeve protection
- Use a skin cleaning cream which is mild and ensure all workers have access to hot and cold water facilities. Where the distance is far between work stations and washroom facilities install a mobile system.
- All employees must know that washing hands is important after contact with the substances. Also they should be advised to wash their hands before they eat, before gloves are worn and before they drink.
- Make sure there are cotton towels or paper towels so skin can be dried properly after washing.
- Provide moisturiser which should be used at the end of each working day to replenish and sooth the skin, replacing the lost oils.
- Use suitable creams before work such as barrier creams.
- Look for signs which indicate possible problems such as redness, itchiness and dryness.
- Ask your GP to examine your hands if you are concerned about your skin.
A Guide to Gloves
If possible gloves should be worn to protect hands. However, it is important to ensure the gloves are appropriate for the employee, for the type of work and for the environment they will be worn in. It’s important to consider the following:
- The task
- The size and comfort for the user
- What type of contact needs to be prevented
- All hazards surrounding the potential introduction of gloves
- What substances the gloves have to protect against
Always check to see if the material of the glove is suited to the substances which are being used. You will also need to check the user isn’t allergic to the material of the glove; latex is one of the materials which can cause health problems to some individuals.
If you would like to discuss protecting your workers from any conditions they experience under your employment contact the Health and Safety Consultants on 0800 1488 677.