MANY tradespeople now wear disposable gloves to protect their hands from contaminants and harmful chemicals.
Disposable gloves can be very effective at stopping these contaminants from coming into contact with skin, but they do not prevent occupational skin disorders (OSDs) from developing when worn.
Workers can often remove protective gloves at the end of the day, only to find their hands in less than perfect condition.
How common are OSDs?
Dermatitis is thought to affect 1 in 10 workers according to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work - which can make routine manual tasks a challenge. Red, irritated and dry hands are often considered ‘part of the job’.
However, OSDs can cause severe, visible consequences for business and individuals. The estimated costs of OSDs in the EU is in excess of £500m per year, with around three million lost working days each year.
Sore, cracked fingers and hands, along with other symptoms of painful OSDs, can restrict hand mobility and the ability to carry out everyday workplace activities.
How do gloves cause problems?
Gloves are a great barrier and often seen as the way to prevent skin damage. In certain circumstances they are part of the solution, but when worn for long periods of time, this barrier can also be the cause of some serious skin complaints.
Normally, when not wearing gloves, moisture passes through skin and into the environment and helps regulate the temperature of the body.
When wearing disposable gloves, this moisture is trapped against the skin and can cause it to soften and become wrinkled similar to when skin is soaked in water. This can weaken the skin and can cause disorders such as those noted above.
Gloves can trap bacteria against the skin in a warm, moist environment often ideal for bacterial growth. If there are small cuts on the skin under gloves, these cuts can quickly become infected, and impact on the person’s ability to work safely.
An independent study commissioned by Deb Group, owner of Swarfega, found people who regularly wore gloves in the workplace reported the following issues were noticeable:
- 74% found perspiration inside the glove
- 51% found gloves uncomfortable
- 47% reported damage to skin/cracked hands
- 44% reported a foul odour
- 40% reported an allergic reaction to gloves
Poor skin condition does not have to be part of everyday working life. By taking a proactive approach to skin health and integrating this with the use of disposable gloves it is possible to mitigate against and prevent OSDs before they became an issue.
Swarfega recommends the following steps when using disposable gloves:
• APPLY protection cream, such as TOUGH by Swarfega Protection Cream, to the skin before putting the gloves on, this will help keep the skin strong under gloves.
• REAPPLY protection cream before putting on a fresh pair.
• WHEN finishing a shift and after washing the hands, use an after-work moisturising gel such as the TOUGH by Swarfega Gel Moisturiser, to nourish and condition the skin, improve its strength, and prevent it becoming dry or damaged.
• USE a suitable hand washing product. If the skin is not heavily soiled, do not use a harsh handwash as this can cause damage to skin. Swarfega has a great range of hand cleaners suited to all types of dirt and grime.
• ABOVE all, it is important to remove disposable gloves regularly, allowing the skin to dry out, and do not reuse already worn disposable gloves.