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PPE May Be Responsible for Dermatitis Increase

PPE May Be Responsible for Dermatitis Increase
11 February 2021
 

More than one in ten workers suffer from occupational dermatitis, potentially exacerbated by PPE being worn for long periods and hand sanitiser use.

UK PPE supplier Arco is raising awareness of the dangers of dermatitis in a nationwide campaign.

Dermatitis doesn’t just affect workers’ hands but can occur anywhere on the body, including the face as a result of wearing PPE for longer periods.

Occupational dermatitis can seriously affect the wellbeing, quality of life and performance of employees. Absence from work, reduced pay, lower morale and self-esteem and even an unintended change in career can result. 

Employers, meanwhile, run the risk of bad publicity, reduced productivity, rising costs due to sickness days, increased costs for training and recruitment and, in a worst-case scenario, potential compensation claims.

 

“Too often a lack of employee complaints means employers assume dermatitis is a minor risk. But the truth in the silence is workers can feel embarrassed, have a lack of understanding about the condition or fear they could lose their jobs."

 

–Darren Williamson

Product & Procurement Manager – Cleaning & Hygiene, Arco

 

Occupational Skin Conditions Cost UK 268,000 Working Days a Year

 

Occupational skin conditions cost Britain 268,000 working days a year. The most common type, occupational dermatitis, is an inflammation of the skin caused by external agents such as chemicals and hazardous substances, biological agents, sensitisers or allergens which change the natural balance of the skin or damage its structure.

With more than one in ten workers suffering from the disease, for a 250 strong company, that’s 25 members of staff. The average cost to treat an unreported hand health problem is £2,000. In addition, each reported case of dermatitis costs an employer £6,000 on average, excluding compensation, fines and legal fees. For 25 employees, this total cost equates to £200,000.  While the costs involved with increased claims and insurance are worrying, the highest costs are incurred from potential fines and Health & Safety Executive (HSE) fees for intervention. The HSE now charges £157 per hour to investigate an incident on-site and the average cost of a health and safety-related prosecution in 2018/19 was £150,000 per conviction.

Darren Williamson, Arco Product & Procurement Manager – Cleaning & Hygiene, said: “Too often a lack of employee complaints means employers assume dermatitis is a minor risk. But the truth in the silence is workers can feel embarrassed, have a lack of understanding about the condition or fear they could lose their jobs. Worse still, underreporting means existing statistics merely represent the tip of the iceberg. We must raise awareness of the help available before employees and employers end up paying the ultimate price.”

 

Next Steps for Employers

 

The HSE recommends the following course of action if occupational dermatitis is predicted to be a problem:

 

  • Find out if there is a problem – Do workers come into contact with agents which could cause dermatitis?
  • Monitor sickness absence due to skin problems (if there is one case, there may be more)
  • Investigate worker complaints and consult with safety representatives and employees
  • Can the cause of the problem be substituted for something better?
  • Can contact be prevented in other ways such as wearing gloves (but remember some people are sensitive to latex and rubber glove materials and may require cotton-lined gloves)
  • Consider providing an after-work moisturising cream to replace lost natural skin oils
  • Consider other measures, such as job rotation

 

Picture: a photograph of a person wearing a face mask

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 11 February 2021

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