Hand hygiene includes pre-work barrier creams
Millions of American workers are exposed to all types of hazardous conditions. While Personal Protective Equipment such as safety glasses, hearing protection and respirators are worn to protect the worker from known hazards, little is done to help protect the largest organ the human bodies has, the skin. DERP, The Dermal Exposure Research Program has been researching the hazards and effects of chemicals absorbed through the skin. They have estimated that 13 million workers are potentially exposed
to these chemicals and all types of disorders, skin diseases and systemic toxicity can occur.
While the research continues, employers need to find ways to help reduce exposure and risk of skin hazards today. Protective clothing is always important to reduce exposure. Gloves, gowns, sleeves and suites made from various materials can help reduce exposure but in some cases potentially cause additional risks which include aggravating dermatitis and heat stress. Employers should consider implementing work practices that reduce injury, improve worker productivity and enhance the overall safety of their workers. Protective clothing plays a role in good work practices. Hand and skin hygiene should also be considered.
Workers that are exposed to chemicals and grime that can cause skin irritation should practice good hand hygiene which includes proper hand washing techniques, the use of pre-work barrier creams where necessary and proper hand and skin cleansing practices. Doing so will minimize risk of occupational dermatitis, increase productivity, reduce lost work time and potential workers compensation claims.
Several manufacturers of protective creams offer programs to help implement hand and skin hygiene. Their products are effective and offer support materials to help get you started. Here is an example of a good occupational skin care system.