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The real threat to industrial workers’ skin

23 July 2018

Workers in the industrial sector face a variety of contaminants and dirt as part of manual work on a daily basis, resulting in workers washing their hands between 10 and 16 times a day. A lack of pre and post skin care treatment can often result in workers developing sore skin, which can lead to an occupational skin disorder (OSD). Paul Jakeway, marketing director at Deb, believes employers need to embed a routine that makes skin health a priority for all and helps reduce the incidence of OSDs

Occupational skin disorders – the risks and impact on employee wellbeing 

Up to 40% of industrial workers will suffer a skin issue at some point in their working life, but as cases often go unreported, it is thought that the scale of the problem is underestimated by up to 10-50 times.

Dermatitis is just one of a number of occupational skin disorders, which collectively pose a threat to health, safety and efficiency in the workplace, not to mention the mental, physical and social impact it can have on individuals affected. 

Employees often suffer from red, sore, dry, cracked and blistered skin; yet these painful conditions are often perceived to be a routine and acceptable side effect of manual work. Over time, this has contributed to a culture of misplaced tolerance of the painful and limiting conditions, meaning that many incidents have gone, and continue to go, unreported and untreated.

The frequency with which these conditions are seen in the workplace can mean that for many workers, the perceived culture is to accept it as part and parcel of their work, so when it happens to them, rather than report it or seek help, they often ignore the problem and battle on.

For many employers, it is a lack of understanding of the condition and appropriate actions that need to be taken, preventing them from implementing an effective skin care solution.

Taking control through prevention 

The onset of OSDs can, in many cases, be entirely prevented, or the extent of damage mitigated, simply by adopting the right skin care regime. 

If employers take a proactive approach to skin health, such as a skin care programme integrating hand creams with appropriate cleansers, and through educating workers, it is possible to prevent occupational skin disorders before they become a problem. 

Employers should implement a robust and effective skin care programme that complies with the 3-Moments of Skin Care, the universal standard for skin care best practice which heralds a breakthrough in the fight against OSDs. 

The 3-Moments of Skin Care aims to drive behaviour change and implementation of skin care best practice (through a simple and practical skin care routine that workers can easily adopt), as well as to provide an effective basis for promoting and monitoring skin care compliance in any workplace. 

It identifies three distinct moments at which skin care action is required (before work/during work/after work), helping workers easily adopt the routine throughout their working day.

It is also important that workers have access to the right products at the right time. Products should be accessible, appropriately labelled, well stocked (and refilled on demand), and in the line of sight for maximum effect. 

Employers should also have access to educational tools to help them train workers about the importance of looking after their hands and visual prompts to remind  them to follow skin care best practice. 

Time to make a change

Now is the time for employers to adopt an effective skin care regime to ensure skin care compliance and healthy skin become a priority in the workplace.

An occupational skin disorder is a serious condition that needs to be taken more seriously in industry. We need to drive behaviour change and alter workers’ perceptions so that healthy skin care routines become the norm rather than the exception.