How to manage skin in the workplace has often been the Cinderella topic of occupational health and safety. So it is always good to see new books being published to inform and help those dealing with such complex issues. A new book from the British Occupational Hygiene Society - Controlling skin exposure to chemicals and wet-work - contains a great deal of information that will be of use to the occupational health and safety professional in preventing ill health due to chemical exposure.
The book starts with a basic section on human skin, followed by a chapter on the protective functions of human skin. These two chapters provide information about the structure of the skin and an overview of some of the functions the skin has to manage. Whilst reading these sections, I would strongly recommend that the reader also read appendix 1. This contains the scientific terminology commonly used, which can also be related to other sources of information.
While chapter 4, "Occupations, chemicals and diseases", does not provide a complete list of all things that can result in occupational skin disease - not a practical proposition for a book of this size - it does provide two very useful tables. The first covers some occupations and the potential irritants or sensitizers that may be found in that industry. The second provides information about the substances that carry skin notations, a good place to start when considering the more acute or significant hazards that might be present in the workplace.
Chapters 5 and 6 ("Dermal exposure control and regulatory requirements" and "Dermal exposure pathways") provide a good basis for understanding what regulatory requirements need to be adhered to and the various ways in which dermal exposure can occur.
The approach detailed in the chapter on "Dermal hazard identification methods" - chapter 7 - relies heavily on information supplied in the safety data sheet, the risk or safety phrases attached to ingredients and skin notations. As the author states early on in this chapter, there have been several studies that have found safety data sheets to often be lacking in accuracy and that many omit including hazardous substances. In addition to this, safety data sheets are written to comply with CHIP Regulations but do not contain the additional information necessary for a COSHH assessment. There are many substances that workers come into contact with at work that