Skin problems in motor vehicle repair businesses

Does this concern me?

Yes it concerns you if;

  • your business involves engine repairs;
  • your business involves vehicle body repairs. Spray painters are seven times more likely to develop dermatitis than the average working population; body preparation workers are twice as likely;
  • your business involves vehicle valeting.

What is the problem?

  • Frequent or prolonged contact with used engine oil may cause dermatitis and other skin disorders including (more rarely) skin cancer.
  • Many cleaning and degreasing substances used in valeting can cause dermatitis.
  • Exposure to fine dust during hand sanding can cause dermatitis.
  • Some substances in two-part adhesives, body fillers and foam fillers can cause skin allergies.
  • If the hands are frequently wet, or wet for prolonged periods during the workday (for example during wet sanding), this can lead to dermatitis.

What should I do about it?

Take all reasonable steps to avoid or minimise contact with materials that cause skin problems by changing the task or process. Consider these examples:

  • substitute a more hazardous material with a safer alternative;
  • automate the process, eg use an automated spray gun cleaning unit;
  • use engineering controls, enclosures or local exhaust ventilation (LEV), eg booths for spray painting, vacuum sanders or LEV for dry sanding;
  • deal with spills promptly;
  • keep the workrooms clean.

You will also need to protect the skin. This is particularly important if the steps above are not practical or are not enough to avoid contact. You can protect the skin by the following:

  • tell workers how to look after their skin;
  • remind them to wash any contamination from their skin promptly;
  • don't use aggressive cleaners or solvents to clean skin;
  • tell them about the importance of thorough drying after washing;
  • provide soft cotton or paper towels;
  • supply moisturising pre-work and after-work creams;
  • provide appropriate protective clothing/gloves;
  • make sure gloves are made of suitable material;
  • select gloves that are the right size and right for the task to be done;
  • use and store gloves correctly;
  • replace gloves when necessary.

You will also need to make sure regular skin checks are carried out to look for early signs of skin disease.

  • Regular skin checks can spot the early stages of disease.
  • Early detection can prevent more serious problems from developing.
  • Steps can be taken to start treating the condition.
  • Checks can help indicate a possible lapse in your preventative measures.

Further information and tools to help with staff training are available in the publications and training resources pages.

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Updated 2021-05-04