Occupational skin disease is one of the major health issues currently facing a number of different industries, affecting up to 40% of workers.

It is an issue that still goes largely unreported. Unfortunately, this leads to a miscalculated judgment on the severity of the health problem.

It is estimated that occupational skin disease costs the EU €600m per year, resulting in three million lost working days. The disease can have a detrimental affect on worker productivity, and if contracted at work, could result in large compensation claims. Despite this, occupational skin disease is not always taken seriously by managers, meaning the easily preventable issue continues to disrupt the UK’s workforce and businesses.

Occupational skin disease causes a multitude of painful symptoms such as swelling, cracked skin, blisters, flaking or scaling skin and itchy hands, as well as causing small areas of the skin to thicken, eventually forming rough growths which may become cancerous. While not contagious, if left untreated it can also spread to other parts of the body causing further discomfort.

Arco recommends implementing a three-step skin care programme to help establish cleaning and hygiene best practice:

  1. Protect: Apply protection cream prior to each work period or after washing hands; reapply at least every three hours.
  2. Cleanse: Wash hands regularly to avoid prolonged contact with contaminants and prevent them becoming ingrained in the skin. Ensure any soap is rinsed off and dry hands thoroughly.
  3. Restore: Apply restore cream after working, either at the end of a shift or prior to a long break ensuring all parts of the hands are covered.

To ensure both employers and employees fully understand what is legally required from them (under the Control of Substance Hazardous to Health Regulations, 2002), Arco has created a package of support material, free of charge and easily downloadable from its website. Included in the package is a guide to combating occupational skin disease, a skin care at work training video, plus separate guides directed at managers and employees. Arco has a plethora of additional information available on its website, which aims to offer extra training and education to those still unclear.

Arco’s product & procurement manager, Darren Williamson, says: “It’s paramount for businesses to start taking occupational skin disease seriously as it’s clearly taking its toll on a number of different industries. Managers are required by law to provide employees with sufficient PPE whilst encouraging them to practice a good skincare regime.

“The issue we have, however, is providing education for both managers and employees; if occupational skin diseases are not reported, businesses will continue to act ignorant and so the cycle continues. Our main aim is to inform businesses and managers of the consequences of skin issues to help us win the battle.  Arco has recently teamed up with protection company Deb to provide a range of products to help combat occupational skin disease.”