For workers completing their daily tasks in the construction, industrial or oil industries, their hands are arguably their most important tools.
Professionals aren’t able to complete their tasks up to standard if they are in harm’s way, however. The spread of bacteria and potential chemical burns are prevalent in heavy-duty settings, making proper hand safety etiquette paramount to every job site.
What Can Happen?
Some but not all employees take pride when they arrive home from the work site with calluses or cuts on their hands. It’s a sign of a hard day’s work. But if skin is not taken care of properly, irritation may develop into a more serious condition, as Occupational Health & Safety magazine noted.
Workers are exposed to three main types of skin disease while on the job.
The first is known as irritant contact dermatitis. According to the Mayo Clinic, contact dermatitis is caused when workers come into contact with a substance that leads to an allergic reaction in the skin’s outer layer. The Mayo Clinic noted that saw and wool dust are common substances that can cause irritant contact dermatitis, and both are commonly found on the job site.
Employees who contract this disorder often feel discomfort and pain in a short matter of time. But in some instances, contact dermatitis will build up and eventually cause a more severe type of pain. Some of the occupations more at risk for contracting this skin disease include:
- Construction workers
- Employees who work with food
- Agricultural workers
Luckily, irritant contact dermatitis can be treated by avoiding the substance that is causing the rash and pain. Creams and ointments prescribed by doctors can also be applied to repair the skin, while medicine can be ingested to help combat the disease.
Workers are also at risk to contracting allergic contact dermatitis. This occurs, as the Mayo Clinic explained, when a worker is sensitive to an allergen that leads to an immune reaction in the skin. Once a worker is sensitized to a certain substance, he or she will feel discomfort with the substance to which they are allergic.
Unfortunately, there are no cures for allergic contact dermatitis.
Skin cancer is another serious conditions workers face if they don’t take the necessary precautions. High levels of exposure to coal and other carcinogenic materials can lead to serious health issues down the line, beyond just hand injuries.
OHS stated it is easier to prevent dermatitis than paying to cure it. As such, employees and employers should utilize the STOP method for advanced protection.
Dangerous substances should be replaced in the workplace because they may cause dermatitis.
Technology can help reduce the chances of coming into contact with irritants.
Employers may need to examine current workflows and introduce changes to protect workers. For example, employees may need to be rotated more often to limit exposure to irritants.
All employees will need to wear personal protective equipment. Gloves are of particular importance to reduce skin contact with harmful substances.
Additionally, hand washing with only soap will not cut it when it comes to preventing dermatitis. Instead, the Mayo Clinic recommended applying creams or gels to provide a protective layer on the skin. Moisturizer can also come in handy to help restore skin.
Workers face many dangers at the work site, and some are more apparent than others. It’s important they take the appropriate measures to protect their hands no matter what task they are completing that day or what materials they are using.
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