In the manufacturing industry, safeguarding yourself and your employees from potential workplace hazards goes beyond the obvious risks. While masks and respirators offer crucial protection against chemicals, it is equally vital to prioritize the coverage and protection of the skin. Numerous workers across various sectors in the US face the possibility of daily exposure to chemicals that can be absorbed through the skin, which can lead to severe, life-threatening consequences if adequate protective measures are not in place.
The skin, being the largest organ of the body, serves a critical role as a barrier. However, it can also absorb harmful substances. Dermal absorption is influenced not only by physical factors such as skin integrity, hydration, density of hair follicles, and skin thickness at the exposure site, but also by the properties of the substances themselves. Factors such as the substance’s physiochemical properties, concentration, and duration of skin contact all contribute to the risk. Even minor cuts, excessive hand washing, and the use of hand sanitizers can increase the likelihood of absorbing dangerous chemicals or fumes through the skin.
Prioritizing Skin Protection in Manufacturing
Traditionally, efforts to control workplace exposures to hazardous chemicals have focused on inhalation, resulting in a lack of standardized methods for measuring and assessing skin exposure or establishing exposure limits. Additionally, some chemicals previously considered safe are now known to cause immune, reproductive, developmental, and even chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Hence, it is essential to ensure comprehensive protection beyond just face masks or respirators.
Manufacturing poses specific risks, with the highest potential for dermal chemical exposure among various occupations. Occupational skin diseases are most prevalent in the manufacturing sector, with approximately 1.2 million workers potentially exposed to metalworking fluids used in machine finishing, machine tooling, and other metal-related operations. These fluids are complex mixtures of oils, emulsifiers, anti-weld agents, buffers, biocides, and additives designed to reduce heat and friction during industrial machining and grinding. While they improve product quality, chronic skin exposure to these fluids can cause dermatitis and other skin and systemic health issues.
Extended exposure to metalworking fluids has been linked to squamous cell carcinoma, folliculitis, keratosis, pigmentary changes, granuloma, photosensitivity reactions, and an increased incidence of certain cancers such as breast, lung, liver, pancreatic, bladder, brain, and prostate.
Moreover, exposure to various metals themselves can lead to complications. Many metals induce hypersensitivity responses resulting in skin, respiratory, and systemic diseases. In such hazardous situations, it is imperative to use chemical-resistant clothing and gloves that fit well and are durable to provide optimal protection.
Ensuring Safety in Healthcare Settings
Healthcare workers also face a high incidence of occupational skin diseases. Certain surface disinfectants, sterilization chemicals, antibacterial hand sanitizers, and soaps have been identified as common sources of allergens that cause dermatitis and occupational asthma. For instance, glutaraldehyde, which was widely used for disinfecting heat-sensitive medical devices, has been associated with numerous cases of dermatitis and chronic conditions that forced individuals to leave their jobs. Repetitive exposure to wet work and frequent glove use, common in the healthcare field, can make the skin more susceptible to chemical penetration and lead to various health issues. Choosing appropriate work gloves while considering potential latex allergies is vital in minimizing these risks.
A significant number of individuals across all occupational sectors face potential exposure to hazardous chemicals, and this number continues to rise with advancements in various fields. While immediate skin issues resulting from direct chemical contact are well-known and common occupational hazards, it is crucial to recognize the potential long-term systemic effects caused by frequent, less noticeable instances of exposure. Each work situation must be carefully assessed to ensure the selection and use of appropriate safety gear that protects against both immediate and long-term health risks.
Source: Legion Safety
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PPE and Protective Gear FAQ
What is Personal Protective Equipment?
Personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as “PPE”, is equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses. These injuries and illnesses may result from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace hazards. Source: OSHA
What are the main types of Personal Protective Equipment?
Personal protective equipment may include items such as gloves, safety glasses and shoes, earplugs or muffs, hard hats, respirators, or coveralls, vests and full body suits. Source: OSHA
What can be done to ensure proper use of personal protective equipment?
All personal protective equipment should be safely designed and constructed, and should be maintained in a clean and reliable fashion. It should fit comfortably, encouraging worker use. If the personal protective equipment does not fit properly, it can make the difference between being safely covered or dangerously exposed. When engineering, work practice, and administrative controls are not feasible or do not provide sufficient protection, employers must provide personal protective equipment to their workers and ensure its proper use. Employers are also required to train each worker required to use personal protective equipment to know:
- When it is necessary
- What kind is necessary
- How to properly put it on, adjust, wear and take it off
- The limitations of the equipment
- Proper care, maintenance, useful life, and disposal of the equipment
- If PPE is to be used, a PPE program should be implemented. This program should address the hazards present; the selection, maintenance, and use of PPE; the training of employees; and monitoring of the program to ensure its ongoing effectiveness. Source: OSHA
Where to buy PPE?
We might be bias, but Werner Protective is the best place to buy PPE and Safety Equipment. Give us a call at (847) 986-9849 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org