The Risks of Dermal Exposure
Roughly 32 million workers in the U.S. (over 20%) are exposed to hazardous chemical products, OSHA says.
Dermal exposure (when the skin is directly in contact with hazardous agents) is a very serious threat to many workers. Exposure to such chemicals costs the U.S. over $111,000 annually, according to the American Burn Association. Those costs include hospital bills, disability claims and worker compensation.
Occupational skin diseases (OSD) can be the result of such exposure. OSD are "the second most common type of occupational disease and can occur in several different forms," according to the NSC. Those forms include:
- Irritant contact dermatitis
- Allergic contact dermatitis
- Skin cancers
- Skin infections
- Skin injuries
- Other miscellaneous skin diseases
Why is it so important to protect your skin? Being the body's largest organ, taking up 10% of your body mass, the skin serves many purposes that you may not be aware of. Some functions of the skin include:
- Water preservation
- Shock absorption
- Tactile sensation
- Calorie reservation
- Vitamin D synthesis
- Temperature control
- Lubrication and waterproofing
Effects from chemical exposure can be temporary or permanent. There are ways to cover certain vulnerable parts of your body that you should be aware of:
- Ears and the surrounding area: this should be concealed by protective apparel that has a hood.
- Neck: an extended collar should be in place.
- Hands, wrists and forearms: overlapping gloves with a protective suit can defend against chemical burns.
- Ankles: wearing of a chemical suit with proper chemical boots and protective socks will keep the entire foot area out of harm's way of dangerous chemicals.
Personal protective equipment is a critical part of the safety of workers in several different industries, including agriculture and food production, manufacturing, utilities, oil and gas, construction, transportation, cosmetology and health care. If you work with hazardous chemicals and start to notice problems such as red, sore or chapped skin, contact your doctor right away. Employees often have a lack of understanding when it comes to skin-related problems, which leads to negligence, so don't wait until the effects worsen to seek medical attention.
For classes involving the proper use of personal protective equipment, click here or contact Training Coordinator Judy Trent at 800-343-1354, ext. 3153 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, OSHA, DuPont, American Burn Association, National Safety Council.