Only the strongest hand cleansers can live up to the demands of the strongest workers, right? Not exactly.
While the toughest industrial jobs do require the toughest workers, using traditional, gritty hand cleansers that clean skin with ingredients like petroleum distillates, derivatives of crude oil and other solvents can quickly dry out and irritate hands. Hardworking hands are already at high risk of Occupational Skin Disorders (OSDs) like dermatitis due to frequent exposure to oil, grease and dust.
OSDs are common and can affect multiple industries. In fact, 1,000 claims are reported in Ontario alone for dermatitis each year. On average, there are 4.63 cases per 10,000 full-time employees in Canada. Dermatitis doesn’t just harm the worker – it can cost a business thousands in lost productivity and healthcare costs. If not handled correctly, or if infections occur regularly, it can even cost workers their jobs.
To reduce the risks of OSDs, there are numerous steps employers can take and products to provide workers with to keep their hands in excellent working condition.
3 Ways to Improve Hand Health
On any given workday, industrial workers’ skin can come into contact with chemicals, degreasers, solvents, abrasions or extreme temperatures. This exposure can easily harm the outer layer of the skin, increasing the chances of dryness, cracks and bleeding. Additionally, many workers wear PPE equipment like gloves to protect themselves from chemicals, microorganisms and weather, but when worn for long periods of time, can cause problems. Gloved hands can quickly become wrinkly, soft and dry, and due to the accumulating moisture in the gloves, bacteria harbors and causes fungal infections in the hands.
To combat these issues, make sure employees are provided with the following products at work:
- A pre-work cream. Employers should provide and encourage employees to apply a pre-work protection cream before the workday begins. In addition to maintaining the outer skin layer, protective pre-work creams can be used under gloves to prevent skin irritation. Make sure to provide a pre-work cream that is perfume-free and non-greasy, as well as compatible for use under latex and nitrile gloves. Creams should absorb into hands quickly and promote smoother, healthier skin that is easier to clean at the end of a workday.
- An effective cleanser. Throughout the day, workers should use a gentle, moisturizing cleanser that removes heavy soilings. Beware of cleansers that use borax and pumice and other ingredients which can strip the skin of its natural barrier. Instead, look for cleansers that use alternative ingredients and bio-scrubbers like cornmeal, olive pit and walnut shells.
- A restoration cream. Lastly, an after-work cream should be provided to workers to help skin heal and regenerate. Look for an after-work cream that is perfume- and dye-free, non-greasy and quickly absorbs into the skin. The cream should encourage the natural repairing of lightly damaged skin and include conditioning ingredients.
Supporting Healthy Hands
Convincing busy workers to add another task to their daily routine isn’t an easy feat. By providing effective products and placing reminders, such as informational posters, around work stations helps encourage employee use. It’s also important to make sure creams and cleansers are easily accessible in wall-mounted dispensers at work. Individual and portable sample sizes are ideal for construction workers that are at often located at different worksites or areas daily.
The easier, more accessible these products are, the more likely employees are to use them. When used regularly, gentle cleansers and creams can prevent dermatitis and other skin disorders, increasing worker productivity and employee morale. When workers understand how to best prevent skin damage on the job, it also prevents expensive doctor visits and lost productivity time.
Establishing a New Normal
Unfortunately, having dry, cracked skin is common and thought of as “just part of the job” within the industrial industry. The normalcy of rough, battered hands should no longer be tolerated, especially when there are simple remedies like cleansers and creams available. With the right hand care program and products in place, a new normal for hand health can be established.
Patrick Boshell is the Marketing Director for Deb Canada and the managing editor for Deb Group's Hand Hygiene, Infection Prevention and Food Safety blog. He's been actively involved in the Canadian commercialization of several Deb innovations including Optidose InstantFOAM Hand Sanitizer for healthcare and GrittyFOAM Heavy Duty Hand Cleaner for manufacturing and industrial applications.
Patrick is an advocate for making hand hygiene contagious in the workplace. He is also a social media enthusiast, using tools such as LinkedIN and Twitter to help educate the importance of effective hand hygiene and skin care to a global audience. To connect with Patrick, please contact him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.