Protecting your skin from damage is vitally important. Work-related skin problems can be caused or made worse by exposure to/coming into contact with substances such as chemicals, and also through having wet hands for long periods. Dermatitis (also known as eczema) is by far the most common, but urticaria and skin cancer are also problems that can be encountered if you do not look after and protect your skin.
Not all harmful substances come in labelled containers. Substances can be generated during work activities (eg wood dust from sanding, solder fumes). Remember that handling some ‘natural’ substances like foods and flowers can cause skin problems too. By examining the Material Safety Data Sheet and/or carrying out a COSHH assessment before using any substances or carrying out the activity will help identify whether the substance could irritate or harm your skin and whether there is possibility of coming into contact with it during your work. Remember, consider replacing a hazardous substance with one that is less hazardous whenever possible; if this isn't possible prevent contact with it - use a brush rather than a rag, or as a last resort ensure you put on the correct type of glove.
If you have identified that you need to wear gloves to protect the skin on your hands, to assist you identify the right type of gloves, see Safe Selection of Gloves, or consult the supplier of the material or ask for advice through the Health and Safety Helpdesk. Remember to consider whether manual dexterity is required, what length of glove is needed, any physical or environmental restrictions and whether you are likely to splash or submerse your hands, as these all need to be taken into consideration when selecting a suitable glove to wear. Once a suitable glove has been selected, they should be disposed of and new ones put on at suitable intervals if chemical breakthrough is anticipated or immediately if they are damaged.
You should regularly check your skin for signs of damage. If you believe that your skin condition is deteriorating, raise this with your line manager/supervisor. Note that barrier creams are not a suitable substitute for gloves. Applying pre-work creams before donning gloves can help remove dirt afterwards and moisturising cream used after hand washing can re-hydrate the skin, which can help prevent dermatitis.
REMOVING YOUR GLOVES SAFELY
The video below (using Quicktime) demonstrates how to remove single use gloves without cross contaminating your skin. In the right hand column there is also a downloadable document which you can print out.
Remember to dispose of your gloves and any waste material in the bins provided.