New drive to promote skin safety at work

Date published: 17 May 2016

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The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) has teamed up with the 11 district councils to raise awareness about skin safety in the workplace.

Launching the new drive to promote skin safety at work are senior environmental health officer at Belfast City Council Trudy Stanfield and HSENI’s deputy chief executive Louis Burns.

Staff from HSENI and local councils will be visiting businesses to raise awareness of the importance of safe working to reduce the chances of employees suffering painful and sometimes debilitating skin conditions. It is vital that workers are given information, training and equipment to protect skin from damage from workplace hazards such as chemicals and the sun. 

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is a common risk for outdoor workers. Sunburn can blister skin and make it peel, and even mild reddening can be a sign of skin damage. Long-term over-exposure to the sun can also speed up the ageing of skin, making it leathery, mottled and wrinkled. Of course, the most serious effect of too much sun is an increased chance of developing skin cancer.

Work-related dermatitis which is sometimes known as eczema, accounts for a significant proportion of work-related ill health. Dermatitis can be caused by exposure to chemical agents or wet work, where hands are repeatedly wet for long periods during the working day. Other causes of work-related dermatitis include biological agents such as plants and bacteria, physical agents such as vibration and radiation, and mechanical agents such as abrasion.

Employers must identify hazards associated with substances in the workplace, such as chemical agents, and they need to prevent or adequately control any risks to workers.

Speaking about the new safety drive HSENI’s deputy chief executive Louis Burns said:

“Most work-related skin damage is preventable by adopting simple steps to manage risks in the workplace.  Proper skin care is an important part of health and safety at work and businesses should make sure potentially harmful exposures are properly managed. For businesses this can mean fewer absence days, and a healthier and better informed workforce.”

Calling for businesses to get behind the initiative, senior environmental health officer at Belfast City Council Trudy Stanfield added:

“When health and safety inspectors visit your workplace they will expect safe skin to be considered in your business risk assessment. And, if work-related skin safety is a potential issue they will also expect to see effective arrangements in place to reduce risks to workers.”

Businesses should show that they follow a number of safety measures and procedures, including:

  • risk assessments which include Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) and sun exposure
  • information, instruction and supervision, with evidence of management commitment to skin safety
  • adequate controls to establish a safe working distance between skin and contaminants
  • the use of personal protective equipment (including gloves)
  • skin inspections - with records
  • the reporting of work-related skin issues under RIDDOR

Two new information leaflets have been developed to support the initiative. They provide advice for employers and employees who may be at risk from work-related skin problems. You can download them from the following links:

For more information please visit our Safe Skin page or phone the HSENI helpline on: 0800 0320 121.

Or, you can also contact your local council - you can find contact details for them at following nidirect website page: 

 

Notes to editors: 

  1. Photo caption: Launching the new drive to promote skin safety at work are senior environmental health officer at Belfast City Council Trudy Stanfield and HSENI’s deputy chief executive Louis Burns.
  2. The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) is an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body, sponsored by the Department for the Economy.
  3. HSENI is the lead body responsible for the promotion and enforcement of health and safety at work standards in Northern Ireland.

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