Skin RisksCertain industries pose greater risks of harmful skin exposure than others. Some of these include food service, healthcare, cosmetology, agriculture, cleaning, painting, mechanics, printing and construction. However, it is important to be aware of skin health practices in any work environment because The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that every year, more than 13 million employees are exposed to harmful chemicals that could be absorbed through the skin.
Contact dermatitis, also known as eczema, is one of the most common occupational illnesses, with costs of over $1 billion a year. Contact dermatitis is characterized by itching, pain, redness, swelling and blisters. Burns, punctures and abrasions are another common workplace skin injuries. Employers should take every precaution to ensure employees’ skin stays safe from harm.
Ensure skin safety at work and reduce your potential liability by using preventive techniques. Avoid harmful cleaners and solvents, like paint thinners, abrasive powders and d’limonene-based hand cleaners (also known as “orange” hand soaps). Commercial skin care provider Deb Group says that borax and pumice-based hand cleaners tend to strip skin of its natural barrier, making it more susceptible to skin issues like rashes and dermatitis. Instead of using these potentially harmful cleaners, employers can offer natural, health-conscious skincare brands and soaps from reputable companies.
Providing employees with proper PPE, such as gloves or gauntlets, also can help reduce injuries.
Another step to ensure good skin health in the workplace is educating your employees. Workplace signage that reminds employees of PPE requirements or illustrates how to spot a skin issue is a good idea. Make sure your staff understands how to recognize a work-related skin disorder (bumps, rashes, itching, swelling and tender skin) and what areas of the body are most at risk (hands, arms, face and neck).
Make skin care a regular topic at safety meetings and training sessions to help employees keep their skin safe - and teach them how to treat skin that has been injured.
Even when all precautions are taken, skin health may still be compromised at work. When this happens, you need to have the proper first aid items on hand. Your first aid kit should be OSHA-compliant and should include burn-relief cream, rash and itch relief cream and a wide variety of bandages to cover open wounds and sores. It should also contain alcohol wipes, cold compresses, scissors, tweezers, hand sanitizer, first-aid tape, gloves, pain reliever and allergy-relief tablets. First-aid kits should be readily available at every work location and in work vehicles.
Effective skin care can dramatically lower cases of dermatitis and skin issues at work, which, in turn, lowers the risk of potential lawsuits and improves employee and overall company performance.