Why Is Skin Care Important in an Industrial Environment?

By taking the right preventative steps to minimize contact with damaging agents and adopting an appropriate skin safety regimen, the risk of occupational dermatitis can be reduced.

Faced with myriad pressing decisions on staffing, finance, operations, and production, it can be easy for industrial-sector business operators to think of skin care as a trivial issue and a commodity buy, or for it to fall off their radar screens completely.

A closer examination of the potential impact of skin disease in the workplace shows why failing to address workplace skin care is a big mistake. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10-15 percent of all occupational illness is caused by skin disease.

Employees in any industrial setting are exposed to a variety of soilings, potential irritants, temperature swings, and, at times, difficult working conditions that can lead to visible skin problems ranging from red, sore, chapped skin to serious instances of occupational dermatitis.

The scope of the problem:

  • Skin disease is the most common of all workplace illnesses.
  • Recent studies show up to 40 percent of workers will suffer skin issues at some point in their working lives.
  • More than half of working time lost through industrial diseases is due to dermatitis.
  • It has been found that 75 percent of patients with occupational dermatitis developed chronic skin disease.
  • Many cases of dermatitis will result in an average of two months away from work. If it is not treated quickly and effectively, more serious long-term problems may develop.

 

The Impact on Employers
The cost of these problems in the industrial environment is significant and is widely accepted to be under-reported. The biggest problems resulting from skin disease for employers are:

  • Increased absenteeism
  • Reduced productivity
  • Compensation and compliance issues
  • Low staff morale
  • Possible health and safety or OSHA violations

The prime responsibility for the prevention of occupational skin disease lies with the employer. Employers have a "duty of care" to ensure they provide a safe working environment and to carry out regular safety assessments for their employees.

By taking the right preventative steps to minimize contact with damaging agents and adopting an appropriate skin safety regimen, the risk of occupational dermatitis can be reduced. We have worked closely with organizations of all sizes and industries to implement hand hygiene products and systems to help prevent occupational dermatitis.

Getting Started
Here are some steps your company can take now to mitigate current problems and avoid future ones:

1. Conduct an assessment of current work practices and include substances that may represent a danger to the skin, including harsh chemicals or abrasive materials.
2. Evaluate and launch new products, processes, working practices, or personal protective equipment, as required.
3. Introduce a Skin Safety Regimen that addresses the need to protect, cleanse, sanitize, and restore skin.
4. Institute staff training and communication to increase awareness and encourage compliance.
5.Review and monitor the situation on an ongoing basis.

The risk of not addressing this is great, as is the potential reward. After years of working with employers, we’ve learned that any investment made in effective skin care flows right back to the bottom line many times over.

This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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