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Taking Care of Your Skin as a Construction Worker

Construction worker washing his skin on hands

There is a secret that every construction worker should know (maybe even more important than where to find tracks for Bobcat), and it involves a skincare regimen. When we think about skincare, we often visualize products located in the women’s section of a department store. These items often come in pretty pink bottles bedazzled with rhinestones, and they most likely have anti-aging written all over them.

Construction workers and outdoorsmen need skincare too. Let’s take a closer look at the importance of skincare and what men across the world can do to protect theirs.

What Is Skin?

It may seem a silly question to ask, but it is important we start with what skin is.

Our skin has three layers and is the largest organ of the human body. It acts as a barrier and protects our bodies from chemicals, changes in temperature, and mechanical impacts.

When our skin is damaged, it cannot protect us as well. Skin conditions and wounds can lead to more significant problems later on.

How Prevalent Are Skin Issues in Construction Workers?

Skin issues relating to construction work are occupational skin diseases. Safety and Health magazine reported that occupational skin disease was the second most prominent disease associated with construction work.

It is well-known that men who work outdoors, such as construction and agriculture workers are at a higher risk for skin diseases. A majority of these occupational skin diseases affect the hands. When a man’s hands become damaged, it can have a massive effect on their work.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 13 million workers in the US get exposed to harmful agents through their skin. That is an astounding number! Skin conditions can lead to more serious health problems and even result in loss of work.

Why Should Construction Workers Take Care of Their Skin?

Since construction workers spend the majority of their day outside, they are in constant contact with harsh elements that can be harmful to their skin. Exposure to UV rays, cold temperatures, and humidity can be hazardous to their skin. The machinery and tools used can be hard on their skin as well.

Operating machinery like skid steer loaders can result in friction and cuts. Sun can cause the skin to burn, and cold weather will suck out the moisture skin needs. Failing to protect skin against these common issues can lead to a host of other problems.

Those problems can include the following:

  • Dermatitis (also known as eczema) – can lead to dehydrated, cracked, and itchy skin.
  • Contact Urticaria – immediate swelling of the skin when in contact with a harmful substance. Other symptoms involve redness, itching, and tingling in the affected area.
  • Acne – can occur on any part of the body.
  • Skin Infections – Does include bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. The pathogens can enter skin that is dry and cracked.
  • Skin cancer – Includes non-melanoma and melanoma types. Skin cancer can be fatal.

Studies are showing that skin irritants are prevalent in the construction and civil engineering occupations. A scientific study found that cement is more alkaline when wet and contains water-soluble chromate. Chromate can cause dermatitis and calluses to form on the hands.

Other irritants found in resins, wood glues, sawdust, dirt, tar, and even sweat can be harmful to your skin. Essentially, construction workers are at a higher risk of developing skin problems than other types of workers. Construction workers need to know how to take care of their skin to reduce these risks.

How Can Construction Workers Care for Their Skin?

Knowing why you should take care of your skin is great, but knowing how to take care of your skin is even better. There are several ways to keep your skin healthy, and they all start with one thing.

Prevention is key to caring for your skin. For the construction worker or outdoorsman, prevention is even more critical. The first step in prevention is using personal protection equipment or PPE. Proper skin care includes wearing gloves or bio-hazard suits that will protect the skin from prolonged friction or absorption of harmful chemicals.

The requirements for PPE vary depending on existing risks. Workers can find PPE requirements listed on the safety labels of the different chemicals and construction materials used. To learn more about PPE requirements and preventative care, check out OSHA’s website.

Going Beyond PPE Requirements for Skincare

There are additional actions you can take to protect your skin on the job.

Exercising good hand hygiene is essential. This includes washing your hands often. If your skin has been in contact with a harmful chemical, there is a chance of developing systemic toxicity. The best action you can take is to wash your hands immediately after exposure with a non-alkaline soap and clean water.

Washing your skin is essential but can cause more harm if done too often. Frequent washing requires you to use a product that provides needed moisture to your skin. There are many options on the market for moisturizers made for working hands. Unscented options are best to prevent irritation.

Daily moisturizing, along with preventative care, will keep you from losing any hours on the job. A study from the University of Arizona College of Medicine found that skin issues are behind 25% of lost workdays each year. None of these days has to include you.

Sunscreen is another must-have skincare product. The sun’s rays dry out the skin and cause sunburn. Prolonged exposure can result in painful blisters that leave you unable to work. Applying sunscreen can prevent this from happening.

Taking care of your skin is easy if you follow these steps:

  • Wear protective gear, like gloves, to protect exposed skin.
  • Exercise good hand hygiene by washing your hands often to rid your skin of harmful chemicals.
  • Moisturize daily using a lotion or skin balm.
  • Apply sunscreen to all areas of exposed skin. You will need to reapply sunscreen throughout the day for the best coverage.

Final Thoughts

Men who work outdoors are putting themselves at risk when they don’t properly care for their skin. While one cannot prevent all skin issues from happening, there is a lot you can do to avoid them.

Take preventative measures by wearing gloves or any recommended protective gear when handling harmful substances. Wash your hands often, and don’t forget to moisturize daily. No one should have to miss work because of skin health issues.

Start today and protect the skin you have. Healthy skin will keep you doing what you love.