Think of winter, and what comes to mind might be the open fire of a Sunday pub, or it might be a stroll around a Christmas market. For outdoor workers the picture is not always this romantic: working outdoors can come with serious risks. Weather conditions can have a serious impact on the health of workers. And no season is quite as harsh when it comes to this as winter – especially for the skin.
If this risk is not properly managed, it can affect a worker’s effectiveness in the short term – and cause serious harm in the long term.
It is crucial for Health & Safety Managers to understand how failing to adhere to skin care best practice can result in workers being affected by occupational skin disorders – skin problems acquired in the workplace. These can range from mild, short-term skin irritations due to the cold weather to serious conditions such as occupational dermatitis.
According to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, up to 40% of workers will suffer a skin issue at some point in their working life.
The costs can be significant: affected employers might not only have to pay the salary of those absent; they might also have to cover the overtime incurred by those stepping in, as well as any overall losses. If employees leave a company as the result of occupational skin disorders, businesses are potentially faced with the costs of recruiting temporary or replacement staff, training, and providing support to other staff.
Health & Safety Managers can go a long way to protect employees from the negative impacts of cold weather conditions. They can help prevent the threat of occupational skin disorders by implementing a structured skin care program that is tailored to their specific industry. What could such a program look like, and how would you go about implementing it?
In a first step, education is crucial: Health & Safety Managers need to make a real effort to inform their staff about the seriousness of the problem – and about the steps they can take to avoid being affected.
Regular staff meetings can help to achieve this, while posters and boards are a good way to keep up awareness on a day-to-day level. Which products should be used when? What is the proper technique? Why are creams so important?
It is important to keep in mind that winter requires different things from a skin care program than summer. Your Nichols and Deb skin care experts can help with one-to-one staff evaluations to measure and assess their skin condition. Conversations with experts will also help Health & Safety Managers to better understand the specific skin care requirements of their industry.
But the best education is futile, if the right products aren’t available. These should be specifically designed for the environment they are being used in, and they should always be sourced from a reputable company who offer advice and guidance on their use. By taking into account the specific nature of the work, skin care experts are able to suggest what is right for a specific industry.
Restorative products such as HandMedic are very important. Applied at the end of the day, they moisturize, nourish and condition the skin, improving its strength and preventing it from becoming dry or damaged. Regular use of restorative creams helps maintain the skin in a healthy condition throughout the winter months, when the skin can be especially prone to being sore, chapped and dry.
Proper hand hygiene using cleansers and sanitizers is the most effective way to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria – and avoid infections. According to estimates, this practice could reduce the number of people catching colds by 45%. Colds and the flu can lead to decreased productivity and low staff morale, as well as the financial burden.
If products are available from easy-to-use, accessible dispensers, outdoor workers are much more inclined to use the right protective and restorative creams. Well-designed facilities are one of the best ways to encourage skin care best practice in the workplace, and improve skin health. If members of staff see others use skin care products regularly, they are more likely to do so themselves.
In a final step, Health & Safety Managers need to make sure that their efforts to take skin health seriously turns into an ongoing conversation with staff – not just a one-off event that is quickly forgotten about. By catalysing real and lasting behavior change among employees, Health & Safety Managers can assure that the skin of outdoor workers is protected – not just in the cold winter months, but throughout the year.
 Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
 American Journal of Preventive Medicine