Work-related skin problems

Your skin is the largest organ on your body, and it has important functions. When it’s healthy, your skin helps:

•  Regulate your body’s temperature

•  Keep invaders like bacteria and fungus out

•  Protect you from the elements, such as cold and sun


Your job & your skin

Your skin needs care and protection to stay healthy — at home and at work. Do you work with chemicals or harmful substances? Do you wash your hands often? People who work in these fields are more prone to work-related skin problems:

•  Manufacturing

•  Food production

•  Construction

•  Machine tool operation

•  Printing

•  Metal plating

•  Leather processing

•  Engine service

•  Landscaping

•  Farming

•  Forestry

•  Health care


Healthy skin at work

Take precautions to prevent skin irritation and injury at work. If you work with chemicals, follow these steps:

•  Store all chemicals safely and label them correctly.

•  Use proper waste containers.

•  Have a material safety data sheet (MSDS) for every dangerous substance used at work.

•  Wear protective gear like gloves, aprons, hats and masks.

•  Take off oil- or chemical-soaked work clothes before you leave work.

•  Know what to do if your skin comes in contact with a harmful substance.

•  When possible, use tools to handle dangerous materials so they don’t touch your skin.

•  If you work with radiation, wear protective clothing and gear to prevent exposure.


If you wash your hands frequently at work:

•  Do not clean your skin with chemicals. Use only cleansers designed for the skin.

•  Apply lotion, cream or petroleum jelly after washing hands to prevent dryness, cracking and eczema.


If you work outdoors, take sun protection seriously. Make sure you:

•  Apply sunscreen at least every two hours if you’re in the sun.

•  Wear sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat and clothing that covers your body.


Source: American Academy of Family Physicians

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