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The skin below the glove

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While gloves can be effective at improving overall occupational hand health, a comprehensive skin care programme is essential in guaranteeing healthy hands in the workplace.


Glove-wearers are facing constant challenges related to hand health and comfort when wearing occupational gloves, which can affect overall productivity and efficiency.

Gloves provide physical protection for hands, but the skin can still be exposed to allergic and irritating substances from the working environment when hands are outside gloves, from some glove materials or when wrong gloves are used. This can also lead to excessive hand sweating, which not only creates discomfort for the wearer, but sweating can also cause dampness in gloves, resulting in unpleasant malodours.

Gloves can help improve the hand health of workers, however they can also put a considerable strain on their skin. It is important for anyone who wears gloves at work to be mindful of this – and to take the necessary steps to prevent any negative consequences.

Many employers don’t realise they have legal duties to assess the health risks from skin exposure to hazardous substances at work. HSE guidance on Managing risks from skin exposure at work (HSG262 ) can help employers in assessing and managing risks, reducing contact with harmful materials, choosing the right protective equipment and skin care products, and checking for early signs of skin disease.

The best way to assure that glove wearers take their skin health seriously is the implementation of a dedicated three-step programme for skin care. Such a programme identifies three crucial moments: applying protection gel before gloves are worn; using appropriate hand cleansers during the day, for instance after breaks; and applying restorative creams at the end of the day.

Any skin care products should be chosen in consultation with a skin care expert to assure their suitability for a particular working environment and type of work. Skin care experts can also provide educational materials, such as leaflets, brochures, and posters, as well as training. Regular staff meetings are a good way to keep the importance of skin care on everyone’s mind.

Specifically designed, sealed cartridge dispensers are the safest, most hygienic way to provide skin care products to workers. Such dispensers make sure that the correct amount of a product is used – minimising waste and optimising cost in use. They can deliver protection gel, cleansers, and restorative creams. If skin care products are available from accessible, easy-to-use dispensers, glove wearers are more likely to apply them frequently – using the right product in the right moments of their working day.

Once a skin care programme has been introduced, it is important that its effectiveness is monitored and reviewed. This could take the form of regular interviews with staff, for instance, taking into account individual working and skin conditions. For large organisations, skin care experts can provide an annual audit service, to ensure that all dispensers are working effectively and to review opportunities to improve compliance even further.

Alongside the use of gloves, the implementation of a structured skin care programme that features the right products and equipment, as well as ongoing staff education, can go a long way to keep the skin of employees both protected, and healthy.

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