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Seasonal Safety: Three Steps to Keep Your Worker’s Hands Healthy this winter

Patrick Boshell
November 06, 2018

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During the winter months, gloves are often thought of as the only line of defense to protect outdoor workers’ hands from harsh environments. However, gloves are not the only method to protect hardworking hands. A pre-work cream can be used to help maintain the integrity of the outer skin layer while a restore cream can help the skin heal and regenerate. In order to keep employee hands healthy and happy, it’s important for employers to understand how to best protect worker’s skin, even in the coldest of climates. Workers in cold and freezing environments are at high risk of experiencing severe skin dryness, which is a serious issue often overlooked and can result in more advanced, painful and costly problems such as irritant contact dermatitis. Irritant contact dermatitis is a form of contact dermatitis, in which the skin is injured by friction, environmental factors such as cold or over-exposure to water, or chemicals.

 

Damage done by dropping temps

 

Although the number of cases of irritant contact dermatitis in Canada is not known at this time, in Ontario, 1,000 compensation claims are reported for contact dermatitis each year.[1] Meanwhile, U.S. statistics estimate that up to 40 percent of workers will suffer from occupational dermatitis at some point in their working lives.[2] According the Labour Force Survey (LFS), in the UK there were an estimated 6,000 new cases of self-reported “skin problems” each year that were caused or made worse by work over the last three years[3]. Dermatitis can become a financial burden to the employee, as well as the employer. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 50 percent of all working time lost to industrial illness is due to dermatitis. Just one case of occupational dermatitis can cost an employer approximately $3,500 in workers' compensation claims and an average disability of 23.9 days, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. However, using an appropriate skin protection cream can reduce the risk of occupational skin disorder and keep skin healthy.

 

Don’t settle for dry skin

 

Employees often think having cracked or dry skin is simply part of the job, not realizing cracked skin can lead to more severe problems because it allows harmful substances to more easily penetrate the skin’s outer layer. Education on how to safely and effectively protect hands from dryness and damage caused by the cold climate during the workday and once their workday is complete is critical.

A three-step program can help prevent skin irritation. It should be specific to the substances being handled, and include:

 

  1. A pre-work protection cream: A pre-work cream specially developed to keep hands, face and other exposed skin healthy in cold working conditions can be used to help maintain the integrity of the outer skin layer. Proper selection of the pre-work cream is important; it should be matched to the specific work environment. Protective pre-work creams can be used under gloves or without gloves to help prevent skin irritation and maintain healthy skin for easier skin cleansing. 

 

  1. A cleaner: The type of hand cleaner selected is vitally important to skin health. A common misconception is that a hand cleanser’s performance is measured by its ability to clean hands aggressively. Whereas, in actuality, most cleansers far surpass the user’s actual requirements.

 

Low-solvent and solvent-free cleansers are a safer option. It’s important to select a product that takes into consideration the impact on the hands, yet is still powerful and effective for the job.

 

  1. An after-work restore cream: Restore creams improve skin strength by moisturizing, nourishing and conditioning the skin, preventing it from becoming dry or damaged, which can eventually lead to occupational skin disease. In cold environments and during inclement weather, restore cream should be applied after working, either at the end of a shift or before a long break from working, such as a lunch break. Workers should apply restore cream at least once daily.

 

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A lot to cover

 

The skin is the largest organ of the body, comprising 3,000 square inches. Therefore, proper skin care is crucial to an individual’s health and safety, especially during the winter months when skin is at its driest. By implementing an effective skin care program that includes protect and restore creams, you can reduce your company’s risk, as well as improve safety and health for your workers this winter.

 

[1] https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/diseases/dermatitis.html

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/96-115/diseas.html

[3] http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/dermatitis/skin.pdf

 

 

 

 

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