Methods of Skin Care and Protection at Work Pt.1
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Methods of Skin Care and Protection at Work Pt.1

Employers are expected to comply with regulations to control hazardous substances for health by all reasonable, practicable methods, either by assessing risks, taking adequate control measures, providing information, etc. They must show care to employees; in return, they should follow and cooperate with their employer on health and safety. Along (Methods of Skin Care and Protection at Work) blog series, we explain to you, as an employer, what is needed to protect employees from skin problems, identify specific tasks and substances that may cause harm, classifications, health risks from chemical agents, and some practical steps for controlling the risks.

Major Function of Skin


The skin holds the body together, and it is a sensing mechanism (touch, temperature), that’s why considered the first line of defense against infection; It regulates body temperature, and preserves water and food in the form of fat. It consists of two layers. Dermis (inner layer) that contains the sweat glands, nerve endings, and hairs, and the Epidermis (outer layer) that is a tough protective layer that presents the skin’s barrier function by limiting material that can pass through it. Skin as well reduces the harmful effects of UV radiation, produce vitamin D.

The level of moisture is a very significant factor that influences the skin’s properties. For example, working in a low-humidity room makes the skin too dry, becomes rough, thickened, and flaky, loses elasticity, and cracks. If prolonged contact with water makes it too moist, the skin becomes overhydrated, impairing its barrier function.

Forms of Hazardous Substances to Skin



Naturally found or manufactured, such as fiber glass, nylon, and polyester. When fiberglass is in contact with the skin, it is able to penetrate it, leading to pain, rash, irritation, or dermatitis, and long glass fibers get stuck in the skin.



Solid particles heavier than air, usually resulted from processes like grinding, concrete laying, demolition, and sanding, or from specific tasks like furnace ash removal. Frequent exposure to dust can react with the skin, causing eczema, skin rashes, irritation, and hyperpigmentation.



Chemical liquids need to be kept in check. It’s important to be aware of chemicals used at work or even in personal care products. Window, floor, and carpet cleaners, fragrances, preservatives, degreasers, bleach, and hydrochloric acid can cause irritants and potential allergens.



Gases can damage the central nervous system and cause severe illness or death when ingested, inhaled, or absorbed by the skin, like nitric oxide (byproduct of combustible fossil fuels) and nitrogen dioxide (production of rocket fuels and explosives). Both can cause skin irritation.

Risk of Dust to Skin

Classification of Hazardous Substances to Skin

Hazardous substances are classified according to the severity and type of hazard which they may present to people who may come into contact with them. The contact may occur while working or transporting the substances or might occur during a fire or accidental spillage.

Irritant Substance


A non-corrosive substance that can cause skin dermatitis, sensitization, or allergic reactions. Many household substances and chemicals, such as wood preservatives, bleaches and glues, white spirit, toluene and acetone, formaldehyde, and ozone, are irritants.

Corrosive Substance


The ones that, usually by burning the skin, are able to destroy living tissue on contact, such substances include strong acids or alkalis, like sulfuric acid and caustic soda, and other tough cleaning substances, like kitchen oven cleaners and dishwasher crystals.

Harmful Substance


Describes a substance that, if it penetrates the skin, is swallowed, or is inhaled, may pose limited health risks. Risks can usually be minimized or removed by using personal protective equipment. Harmful substances include household substances (bitumen-based paints, paintbrush restorers, and chemical cleansers).

Very Toxic Substance


Generally, they are very hazardous to health when inhaled or swallowed and can be lethal if they come into contact with the skin (prussic acid). Meanwhile, Toxic substances are poisonous and can prevent the function of one or more organs within the body (lead, mercury, pesticides).

Health Risks to skin

Previous paragraphs included a brief introduction about the forms of substances and their classifications, which clarified that substances can pass through the skin and cause diseases in other parts of the body. There are two types of results: ‘local effects’, which are limited to the skin itself, and “systemic effects,” which can cause diseases in other parts of the body.


Be a safety hero – Score an accident zero

– Safety Advisor

1. Dermatitis


Can be caused by various chemicals, mineral oils, and solvents. It begins with a mild irritation, then turns into blisters that peel and weep, becoming septic. Subdivided into two types:

a. Irritant Contact Dermatitis:
Skin reactions occur when substances like detergents and weak acids come into contact with the skin, leading to inflammation at the site of contact. The common symptoms are dry, red, and itchy skin; swelling, flaking, blistering, cracking, and pain may follow; however, fortunately, they are reversible after contact ceases.  

b. Allergic Contact Dermatitis: ‘Immunological response’ caused by a skin sensitizer to a substance such as epoxy resin Sensitization can develop over weeks, months, or even years before it becomes apparent. Once sensitized, severe dermatitis may occur from the same substance, even with a small exposure at a later date. Preventing further exposure is the only remedy.

2. Burns


can follow brief skin contact with a corrosive substance, like wet cement, strong acids and alkalis. This may lead to the skin scarring.

3. Urticaria


Skin condition that typically shows as a wheal (swelling) and flare (red mark) reaction. Skin irritants or allergens may cause it. It is different from irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis in that it quickly follows skin contact and disappears again within hours.

4. Skin Cancer


Exposure to certain chemicals, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrogen (PAH) compounds, and exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun can cause skin cancer. Signs include a scaly patch of hard skin, a red lump or spot, an ulcer, a new mole, or a patch of skin that bleeds, oozes, or has a crust

5. Acne


Grease and oils can cause ‘oil acne’ in mechanics, and roofers can develop acne from exposure to pitch. An inflammatory disease of the sebaceous glands and hair follicles in the skin. Pimples & pustules (white-centered bumps) mark it.

6. Systemic Diseases


Many substances can pass through the skin and cause diseases in other parts of the body, such as bladder cancer from aromatic diseases of the kidneys from carbon tetrachloride, heart from carbon disulphide, blood from benzene

Assessing Risks to Skin


We agreed that ‘risk’ is the likelihood that workers’ skin will come into contact with hazardous substances that could affect their health, whether local or systematic effect The assessment aims to define hazards and risks and who might be harmed and how by analyzing information like the need to use such substances and the quantity, usage period, and number of users and how they handle the substance. So similar to a standard risk assessment we discussed in blog ”How To “Evaluate Risk” In Risk Assessment”, but is applied specifically to hazardous substances.

Exposure Pathways to Hazardous Substances

  • Immersion of the skin into a liquid or powder;
  • Splashes from decanting or mixing liquids and powders;
  • Deposition when droplets, dusts, fumes or aerosols contact the skin,
  • Contact with contaminated surfaces by:
      • Directly handling a contaminated workpiece;
      • Contact with contaminated work surfaces;
      • Residue on hands transferred to the eyes, nose and mouth;
      • Residue on hands transferred to tools, paperwork and food;
      • Removing contaminated PPE incorrectly.
Olis Cause Harm to Skin
To Be Continued
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