Skin Conditions

24th October 2017

As part of our general health surveillance assessments, our Occupational Health Technicians (OHTs) carry out skin checks as standard practice. At the beginning of any health surveillance assessment, we always ask our patients what their occupation is, do they wear gloves, overalls, safety glasses etc and what type of things they are exposed to, for example, coolants, chemicals etc.

During the skin checks, we ask each patient if they are experiencing any problems with the skin on their hands, arms, face or anywhere else on their body. Should the patient be experiencing any problems, we have a look at where the problems are and then ask them questions for example:

“How long have you had the complaint?”
“Any previous episodes of skin irritation?”
“Ever had treatment for the skin irritations?”

Most common complaints are itching, redness, dryness and cracking of the skin. All of which can be sore and continue to get worse if not treated. Most companies do offer barrier creams to their staff. A barrier cream acts a physical barrier between the skin and the contaminants that may irritate the skin.

We see various types of skin complaints, the most common one being Dermatitis. Dermatitis is a skin condition caused by contact with something that irritates the skin or causes an allergic reaction. It usually occurs where the irritant touches the skin, but this is not always the case.

We suggest that if any skin complaint gets worse, that the patient seek medical attention by visiting their GP. If required, we suggest to our client that the patient sees one of our Occupational Health Advisors for a review. The good news is that whilst these complaints are common, they are preventable. The HSE has provided guidelines on simple, cost-effective steps that employers and employees can take.
Use the APC approach: Avoid direct contact with unprotected hands and substances, products and wet work where this is sensible and practical, for instance:

  • Get rid of the substance/product/wet work altogether.
  • Substitute the product/substance for something less harmful.
  • Introduce controls (such as tools or equipment) to keep a safe working distance between skin and substances/products/wet work.

You should look to protect the skin. Avoiding contact will not always be possible so:

  • Provide suitable personal protective equipment such as gloves. This can be complex so we have provided advice on glove selection.
  • Provide mild skin cleaning cream that will do the job and washing facilities with hot and cold water.
  • Tell workers to wash their hands before eating and drinking, and before wearing gloves. Suitable cleaning systems exist for mobile workers.
  • Remind workers to wash any contamination from their skin promptly.
  • Provide soft cotton or disposable paper towels for drying the skin. Tell workers about the importance of thorough drying after washing.
  • Protect the skin by moisturising as often as possible and particularly at the end of the day – this replaces the natural oils that help keep the skin’s protective barrier working properly.
  • Use suitable pre-work creams.

Check hands regularly for the first signs of itchy, dry or red skin:

  • Regular skin checks will help spot the early signs of dermatitis or other skin problems caused by skin exposure.
  • The earlier that health effects are recognised and treated, the more likely it is that the sufferer will make a full recovery.
  • Checks can show whether an adequate standard of control is being maintained. They may give an early indication of lapses in control and a need to reassess the controls used.

For more information regarding the above, please contact us!

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