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How to counter the negative impact of increased handwashing in the construction industry

While hand washing is not a new concept it has, arguably, never been more of a hot topic as the country works together in a bid to halt the spread of coronavirus through human contact and cross contamination.

The evidence suggest that the additional precautionary measures in place – including singing happy birthday twice every time we move from room to room, or from task to task – are working, but the reality is that frequent and repeated use of hand hygiene products, particularly soaps and other detergents, is also having a negative impact on those in the construction industry.

For many, the symptoms are relatively mild, and result in little more than dry or cracked skin, but for other it is an important cause of chronic irritant contact dermatitis. A condition typically caused by a depletion of what is known as the lipid barrier – a layer of protection that is responsible for maintaining skin hydration, firmness, and softness.

Here, we have summarised some of the latest advice on how to combat these milder symptoms, but of course we would advise anyone to speak to a health professional if symptoms persist or worsen.

  • Avoid using an alcohol-based product (i.e. Antibacterial gel).

Provided you wash your hands with soap and water an alcohol gel will not make your hands cleaner, but it may aggravate symptoms of irritant contact dermatitis.

  • Dry your hands thoroughly before putting on gloves and avoid wearing them unless necessary.

Wearing gloves, and especially wearing gloves while hands are still wet from either washing or applying alcohol, increases the risk of skin irritation. REMEMBER, please follow all guidance set out and if you are required to wear gloves continue to do so.

  • Use an alternative product if you are experiencing symptoms.

It may be that you have an intolerance to a certain product if you are experiencing symptoms. Speak to your site operative who may be able to offer an alternative.

  • Use moisturising skin care products on the areas affected when at home.

It is worth applying skin care products to affected areas when you are not at work to help alleviate symptoms. However, it is important that you do not apply these products whilst working in a shared area as they can be easily contaminated.

 

 

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