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All construction workers are at risk of skin diseases including contact dermatitis and cancer.

Construction workers also expose to hazardous chemicals that can cause a variety of ill effects when they come into contact with skin.

These effects are sometime direct where the chemical cause problems like flaking/drying, irritation, corrosion, changes in pigmentation, chloracne and skin cancer.

It can be systemic when the chemical enters the body causing or contributing to health problems somewhere else in the body.

It also causes sensitization where the individual becomes unusually susceptible to a chemical or group of chemicals. Exposure to even small amounts can cause severe allergic reactions to skin and/or the airway.

Or sometime it causes multiple health effects in an exposed individual.

Bricklayers, roofers, road workers and painters are at particular risk because of frequent contact with harmful substances.

Construction workers are at risk of skin cancer mainly because of exposure to the sun during outdoor work, although some harmful substances can also cause skin cancer.

The substances that cause the most skin health problems are: wet cement, epoxy resins and hardeners, acrylic sealants, bitumen or asphalt, solvents used in paints, glues or other surface coatings, petrol, diesel, oils and greases, degreasers, descalers and detergents.

The symptoms of dermatitis can be severe including redness, scaling/flaking,   blistering, weeping, cracking, swelling, pain and itching.

The signs and symptoms of this condition can be so bad that the sufferer is unable to carry on at work.

Skin damage caused by the sun can include reddening, sunburn and longer term damage such as premature ageing of the skin and an increased chance of developing skin cancer.

Signs of skin cancer can include a scaly patch of hard skin, a red lump or spot, an ulcer, a new mole, or a patch of skin which bleeds oozes or has a crust.

Skin exposure to chemicals is a significant workplace problem in construction.

Research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in US finds that workplace skin diseases – occupational contact dermatitis – account for approximately 20 percent of all reported occupational diseases and annually cost one billion dollars in lost workdays and lost productivity.

Prevention is always better than cure. If a skin contamination problem identified, a adequately control measures to the risk must be developed that must stress on steps that avoiding or reduce contact with materials that cause skin/systemic problems, protect the skin and check for early signs of disease.

A proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) use by worker can be consider as first line of defend to hazardous material that might cause serious injuries to the worker.

PPE is available in a wide range of natural and synthetic materials – include gloves, aprons, overalls, footwear and respirators.

PPE needs to be fit for purpose. The right quality and construction to give the protection needed, fit the wearer, be suitable for the task and compatible with any other PPE to be worn.

But PPE if used incorrectly can increase the risk of skin exposure. For example, contaminant trapped inside ill-fitting PPE can be held against unprotected skin.

Source : OSHA; Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund Of North America; The Skin Cancer Foundation and Health and Safety Executive

(this article written for 1BINA.my)