According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), auto service technicians and mechanics are significantly more likely than the average worker to be injured or killed on the job. Nearly 45 percent of these injuries and illnesses are due to contact with objects and equipment, such as parts, materials, tools and vehicles themselves. Though contact injuries may be the most prevalent, they are not the only type of occupational hazards that automotive workers face. Other illnesses and injuries include overexertion, falls, strains, sprains and exposure to harmful chemicals.
One common occupational hazard that is oftentimes overlooked in the automotive industry is the incidence of skin disease. A study from the Occupational Medicine Journal found that 41 percent of car mechanics said that dry skin on their hands was often a problem and 46 percent reported the occurrence of hand eczema. Additionally, an even more severe skin disease known as contact dermatitis is of particular concern for those workers in an industrial and automotive setting. The Canadian Centre for Occupation Health and Safety (CCOHS) states that occupational contact dermatitis is “an inflammation caused by substances found in the workplace that come into direct contact with the skin.” Symptoms can include redness, blisters and swelling of the skin. Contact dermatitis may spread to other parts of the body if left untreated, and workers can even develop chronic skin disease.
In an automotive setting, these contact substances can include oil, grease, paint, brake fluids, detergents, adhesives, degreasing agents and even some ingredients found in hand cleansers themselves like pumice and solvents. CCOHS reports that skin disease, like contact dermatitis, accounts for approximately 35 percent of all cases of occupational illness, and in Ontario alone, 1,000 compensation claims are reported for contact dermatitis annually. Additionally, according to the Center for Economic Vitality at Western Washington University, 77 percent of shops offer medical coverage but only 33 percent of shops offer paid sick days. This can have an incredible effect on a shop’s efficiency and bottom line as well as the workers’ well-being.
While many autoworkers think skin irritation is an unavoidable part of their job, new products provide significant prevention and relief from this painful and often costly problem. How can workers protect themselves from developing dangerous skin disease in the shop? As a leader in workplace skin care, Deb has put together a few skin care best practices.
Just as auto mechanics take care of and repair automobiles, the mechanics and their managers must learn to take care of their skin. To become and stay a top performing shop, managers need a healthy and productive workforce. With quality products and proper skin care knowledge, the occurrence of skin disease in the automotive industry can be significantly reduced, protecting workers and saving time and money.
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