PPE: Skin Diseases – A $30 million Problem
According to a recent report released by Safe Work Australia, occupational skin diseases are the second most occurring work-related disease that general practitioners regularly treat. The report released indicated that the cost to businesses throughout Australia is about $33 million annually.
Considering this significant cost to the public, it is important to be aware of how one can minimise the risks of suffering from a work related skin-disease. Workers who suffer the greatest risks are those who are frequently exposed to harmful chemicals or wet work in their daily professions.
Some Main Causes:
- bases and alkalis
- rubber accelerators; and
- potassium dichromate in leather and cement.
Safe Work Australia Chair Mr Tom Phillips AM stated that of the workers who report exposure to chemicals, less than two-thirds said they had received chemical safety or Personal Protective Equipment training.
These numbers indicate that occupational health and safety training needs to implemented in every workplace in Australia regardless of how big or small and include how to properly handle chemicals and hazardous substances.
This is a clear message that work health and safety training needs to be integrated in every workplace in Australia no matter how big or small and include how to properly handle chemicals and hazardous substances,” he said. Quality training then, is of significant importance.
The use of PPE here is self-explanatory, and includes:
- safety glasses and goggles
- shop coats and overalls
- boots; and
- hearing protection systems.
An often overlooked method of reducing risks is to practice good personal hygiene. While it would seem that personal hygiene is the responsibility of the individual worker, it is up to the employer to ensure that PPE is properly maintained and employees have access to the proper facilities and cleansing agents.
When coming into contact with hazardous contaminants, the most important initial treatment should be immediately washing the contaminated part of the body, so these products are a valuable addition to industrial environments where dangerous chemicals are used.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) must be maintained, repaired or replaced so that it continues to be effective and safe. Each worker must be trained in ensuring the equipment is:
- clean and hygienic, and
- in good working order.
What are the problems with using personal protective equipment?
Where PPE is required and used at work one must remember:
- wearing PPE may adversely affect the performance of tasks being undertaken — either by restricting vision or mobility
- While PPE may be uncomfortable to wear and some workers may not be able to wear it (such as those with allergies to latex and thus cannot wear rubber gloves)
- constant supervision is required to ensure the PPE is being used the proper manner
What is the worker’s duty in relation to personal protective equipment?
A worker who is provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) is trusted to:
- use or wear the PPE in accordance with any information, training or reasonable instruction provided by the person conducting business, so far as they are reasonably able
- not misuse or damage the PPE on purpose
- advise the person in charge of any damage, defect or need to clean or decontaminate any of the PPE they are aware of, and
- consult with their manager if the PPE is not an adequate size or quality.
If a worker refuses to wear or use the PPE, the employer can take action against the worker. When a worker who does not wear or use PPE, or intentionally misuses or destroys it, that worker may face prosecution.
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