Both contact irritant and allergic dermatitis can be prevented by prevention or at least minimisation of skin contact with that substance. If the Risk Assessment identifies that workers are being exposed to substances, the following control measures should be considered to remove, minimise or reduce the risk:
- Removal of the substance.
- Substitution by a less hazardous substance.
- Closed systems of work which minimise worker contact with the substance.
- Removal of excess material using drainage, vacuuming or local exhaust ventilation.
- Washing, drying and applying hand creams. The most effective way of reducing dermatitis is to reduce skin contact with the hazardous substance and the easiest way to do this is to wash it off. Good welfare facilities are required including a sufficient number of wash hand basins with hot and cold running water or a mixture of both, hand cleaners, drying facilities and hand creams. The choice of hand cleaners is important as it needs to remove the substance but not damage the skin by removing the protective oily layer. They should not contain harsh abrasives or organic solvents. Clean dry towels or disposable paper towels or hot air dryers may be used. The use of hand creams or emollients after washing helps replace the skins natural oily layer.
- Barrier creams. Barrier creams must be used with caution. Very often they are not effective barriers. In general they are not a substitute for appropriately chosen gloves. Even creams which do provide an effective barrier when first applied can wear off quickly when actually working and provide much less effective protection. Unlike when gloves fail, the user will not usually be aware of decreasing protection. Barrier creams may sometimes be used with gloves and sometimes are used to facilitate cleaning of the skin after work
- Use of personal protective equipment. The objective of personal protective equipment, in this case gloves and clothing is to prevent direct skin contact with the hazardous substance. Gloves are useful but care in their selection is vital. No glove provides protection from all chemicals and care must be taken that an appropriate glove is chosen. Glove suppliers can provide advice on the choice of appropriate gloves. If possible latex gloves should be avoided because of the risk of latex allergy but there are occasions when they are still the best option. Sweat is itself an irritant and sweating under gloves can be a problem. Regularly changing gloves and cotton under gloves can help. Apart from gloves and protective overalls, aprons and face masks may be required