Simple steps to prevent skin damage
Use the Avoid, Protect, Check approach:
- Avoid direct contact between unprotected hands and substances, products and wet work where this is sensible and practical
- Protect the skin. Avoiding contact will not always be possible so remind workers to wash any contamination from their skin promptly. Provide soft cotton or disposable paper towels for drying the skin. Tell workers about the importance of thorough drying after washing. Protect the skin by moisturising as often as possible and particularly at the end of the day – this replaces the natural oils that help keep the skin's protective barrier working properly
- Check hands regularly for the first signs of itchy, dry or red skin – when skin problems are spotted early they can be treated, which can stop them from getting too serious
Workers at a company using photographic chemicals developed a skin disease called 'allergic contact dermatitis'. Symptoms of this condition include skin blistering, cracking, splitting, swelling and weeping.
The company was prosecuted and fined for six separate breaches of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH).
What should have happened
The employer should have considered using a different photographic chemical or designed and operated a process to avoid employees coming into contact with the harmful substances.
The risk of other workers developing allergic contact dermatitis would have been removed or reduced.