It is estimated by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), that from reported cases of occupational skin disease diagnosed by specialist physicians, approximately 70% of these cases are contact dermatitis.
The cost implications of this problem can be significant and are widely accepted to be under reported. Occupational skin problems not only mean personal costs for the employee, but there are also disruption costs to businesses such as lost productivity through employee absence from work, reduced employee efficiency and poor staff morale, together with the potential damage caused to both an organisation and its reputation through negative publicity.
So, what can businesses do to avoid such costs?
Guidelines from the Health and Safety Executive ‘Directors’ Responsibility for Health and Safety’ highlight that employers are legally obliged to provide a safe working environment and to carry out regular safety assessments.
Therefore, employers have a legal ‘duty of care’ to assess the risks that could cause dermatitis, as well as other risks, and to take necessary preventative actions such as reduce contact with harmful materials, choose the right protective equipment and skin care products, and check for early signs of skin disease.
If it is not reasonably practicable to prevent exposure to these substances, the law says that employers must do all they can to minimise exposure.
So, what can businesses do to ensure they are compliant?
Effective prevention requires full co-operation between all involved; management and employees alike. Whatever the obligation of the employer, the employee also has a duty to comply with all preventative actions identified. But, the diversity and complexity of the industrial environment can make it difficult to find an appropriate, effective skin safety solution that will be used and understood by all.
Christine Mottershead, Marketing Director at Deb advises: “As World Day for Safety and Health at Work approaches, it is important to look at the needs of every employee in the workplace, not just those who require PPE. Organisations should work with companies who are experts in skin care to provide a systemised skin safety solution along with providing support materials to create a communications campaign to educate employees on the importance of hand hygiene.”
By having a systemised approach to skin care, combined with programmes to educate employees about their skin, employers can provide a simple yet cost-effective solution to help all employees combat dermatitis in the workplace.