Dermatitis – Skin Irritation – The ease with which skin diseases can spread in the workplace is worrisome. It only takes a brief moment of skin contact to infect a co-worker. Skin diseases are normally caused by an allergic reaction, sometimes caused by the present of toxic chemicals.

The term dermatitis refers to inflammation of the skin and is usually characterized by a rash, itching and skin lesions such as blisters or pustules that may leak and crust over. It is a medical condition in which the skin becomes red, swollen, and sore, sometimes with small blisters, resulting from direct irritation of the skin by an external agent or an allergic reaction to it.

Such an incident recently happened in the chemical industry where they produce plastics. An employee has been conducting his daily duties as usually when one day he suddenly felt his skin itching when he got home from work. Not taking note he returned to work and the more he worked the more he felt itchy. He began to have severely cracked skin and a medical check-up detected he had fissured eczema on the dorsa of his hands because he was allergic to chemical products that he was working with. The employee was allergic to abietic acid.

The company later launched an investigation that detected that there was a chemical in the heated plastic that caused the skin reaction. The reaction turned into dermatitis and it spread from the employee's hands to other parts of the body.

Fortunately, no medical bills or TTD were incurred and no productivity days were lost as the employee declined the offer to take days off work. The employee is however, still undergoing treatment. The dermatitis has significantly improved and the employee has changed working departments away from the plastics that caused him the skin reaction.

After the findings of the investigation the company put up preventative measures in the working environment. Not only has the affected employee changed departments but all employees were provided with gloves to use when handling the plastics. It is essential for employers to know the kind of chemicals they use in the production process as well as in their workplace in general. They also need to know the effects they can have on employees be it through contact or inhalation. This is where the essentiality of PPE is visible as some chemicals can cause permanent skin deformation.

Employees should also be encouraged as soon as they suspect any irritation or discomfort in their skin after handling any chemicals or chemically treated products. That way, skin diseases can be detected at an early stage and preventative measures can be implemented immediately.

The skin is the body's most important defensive measure to protect the body for unwanted infiltration. . Let us not rely on just the skin to avoid unwanted infiltration. Know the materials you are dealing with and be aware of the impact they can have.

Posted date: 21st Oct 2014
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