Being a hard worker does not mean you have to neglect skincare and protection. No matter what industry you’re in, your skin is important. It’s the biggest barrier that protects your body from infections. Therefore, keeping it healthy by providing the nurturing it requires will ensure that it can do its job.
How do you keep the skin healthy and undamaged? Occupational dermatitis is a big issue in Australia that every worker should be aware of. It’s the inflammation of the skin due to exposure to substances in the workplace through direct contact or airborne.
But dermatitis is not the only problem in the workplace. Burns, boils, and skin redness or discolouration can occur. Urticaria, sun exposure, and skin cancer are also common. Approximately 34,000 non-melanoma and 200 melanoma skin cancers diagnoses are made each year. These numbers are a result of occupational exposures in the country.
This guide intends to help both employees and managers, as well as those who are responsible for the health and safety in the workplace.
Mining and quarrying can be dangerous, which is why workers wear protective equipment to keep them safe. They rarely begin their day without wearing helmets, steel-toe boots, and their PPE. But many miners forget that they also have to take care of their skin. Going underground is not skin-friendly at all.
The skin is indeed the largest organ and has three layers: the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous tissue or fat. But despite these layers, it’s still thin. Miners should be particularly careful in handling harmful materials and protect the skin through the following methods:
- Protect the skin before coming into contact with contaminants using non-greasy creams.
- Cleanse the hands with the right product. It should be tough on grime and dirt but gentle on the skin. This will help minimise irritation.
- Ensure to apply a product after work, ideally before bedtime, to help restore the skin’s natural moisture.
A mine or quarry can carry a risk of UV overexposure, even if it’s underground. The risk is higher during the summer months, which is why employers should assess and gather information about the work area. Both workers and employers should know where the shaded parts of the site are, along with areas that reflect sunlight. Some examples are concrete, corrugated steel, and water that magnify the UV threat. That’s why wearing sunscreen or sunblock is vital for miners and quarry workers. Healing creams for burns should also be ready.
UV is not just from sun exposure. Welder’s flash, also known as arc eye, is cornea inflammation as a result of UV rays from the welding arc. The symptoms don’t occur immediately, but once they do, they can lead to severe pain, light sensitivity, and red eyes. Arc eye is often temporary, but it can result in permanent eye injury with prolonged and repeated exposure. That’s why welders should protect their eyes using appropriate safety PPE like goggles, face shields, and helmets.
Those UV rays affect the skin, too. Burns are a common issue, which is why flame-resistant gloves should be worn at all times. Sparks and spatter can burn the hands and wrists when they are exposed while welding. Welding clothing is also necessary to protect the welder from high heat. The proper garment with sleeves and good quality material like wool clothing is important to keep the skin protected. Failure to wear the appropriate welding attire can cause skin burns and even fires. Heavy-duty boots, caps or hats, and ear and neck protection should be considered, as well.
As for skincare, a rich moisturiser is a good way to protect the skin barrier. Cleanse regularly and use hand cream to prevent blisters. Wear sunscreen, too, for UV protection.
Construction and Outdoor Workers
The dangers of prolonged sun exposure are not stressed enough even for those in the construction industry. It’s important to educate and train the workers about protecting themselves against skin diseases, including skin cancer.
Most people working under the sun know that they should wear sunscreen or sunblock every day. Reapplying the product after a specific time is essential, as well. But sunscreens are not enough for protection. Any outdoor worker should be protected from head to toe against prolonged sun exposure with the following:
- Long-sleeved shirts
- Boots or shoes covering the toes
- Face socks
- Wide-brimmed hats
Managers should try to reschedule work during peak UV times, which occur during the middle of the day.
Food and Hospitality Industry Workers
Many people who work in the kitchens of restaurants and hotels find that they have acne and spots on their faces. Fast-food workers often complain about skin breakouts due to the oil and grease they work with. If you have the same problem, you can protect and replenish your skin with the following methods:
- Wash your hands regularly to avoid spreading substances like salt, fat, and oil onto your face.
- Don’t touch your face when cleaning surfaces or even when preparing food.
- Wash your face when you’re done with work using a cleanser. Moisturise after cleansing to help revitalise your skin and keep it plump.
- Wear the necessary protective equipment when cooking and whenever you’re in the kitchen space. You need a jacket, cap or hat, apron, pants, and non-slip shoes.
People in the food industry don’t normally wear sunscreens because they are indoors. But sunscreen is not only for sun protection. Since cooks and chefs are near hot appliances and burning oil, they should have extra protection. Cooking gases emit light and heat, which can have the same effect as the sun’s rays. Apply a product that has at least SPF 30, especially when cooking.
More Skin Care Tips
Here are more skincare and protection tips for all industries:
- When using hand and face creams, stick to perfume-free products as much as possible.
- Sunscreens should be worn even on a cloudy day. But they will not protect you for the whole day. You need to reapply the product every few hours.
- Moisture is the best way to keep the skin healthy and protected. You can apply a moisturiser daily, usually twice a day.
- Drinking enough water, primarily if you work outdoors or at a mine site, can keep you hydrated, which is vital to your skin. But it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in because you should always nourish your skin from within by bringing a water bottle with you to work daily.
Educating employees is crucial and should be a part of the business practice. Although it’s considered basic knowledge to drink enough water, many workers don’t do it. With proper training and education, employees will know what to do, signs to watch out for, and how to help their co-workers, especially in times of danger.