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Breathing and Skin Problems at Work

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 22 Feb 2016 | comments*Discuss
 
Skin Problems Occupational Respiratory

Not everyone reacts to the work environment in the same way. This is why some people may suffer from breathing and skin problems while others are unharmed. Nonetheless, it’s vital not to ignore the symptoms of any such disorders.

Occupational Respiratory Disease

Occupational respiratory disease has several possible causes. These include the presence of dust, fumes, vapour, gases, smoke and mist in the atmosphere at work.

Of course it may be difficult to avoid these substances. Dust may come from the Wood Waste in a timber yard, for instance; gas may occur as part of a welding or furnace process; or a chemical mist may drift into the lungs from Dangerous Substances such as cleaning products or pesticides.

A confined, hot workplace with poor ventilation adds to the problems. Anyone working in such an area should limit the time he or she spends there.

Initially, some substances irritate the respiratory system and cause cold or flu-like symptoms. Over time these symptoms may become more serious conditions. The most well known are asthma and emphysema.

Many adults who develop asthma may do so because of their work environment. The signs to look out for are tightness across the chest, a persistent cough, and wheezing.

Emphysema is usually associated with smoking. That said, anyone who has worked with asbestos, coal or silica for a prolonged time might contract the disease. The main symptom is shortness of breath.

At the first sign of a health problem related to occupational respiratory disease, the sufferer should speak to a doctor. The doctor may have difficulty pinpointing the cause at first so is likely to ask questions about the first appearance of the symptoms, their regularity, and your workplace.

It’s therefore useful if patients go to the doctor prepared. Workers who come into daily contact with chemicals, for example, should note the name of each one.

At the same time, workers should speak to supervisors or managers about their concerns. It may be possible to alleviate a problem by improving ventilation, using respirators or even changing work practices.

If an employer doesn’t address the matter, the problem can persist. The result is that both health and productivity suffer.

Occupational Skin Problems

Skin problems are the most common work-related medical disorders. Irritations, rashes, allergies and even cancer may result from exposure to oils, solvents, glues, plastics, dyes, heavy metals and acids.

If such exposure is a regular part of a job, an employer should supply suitable Protective Clothing such as gloves and overalls. Workers should also remove any contaminated clothes when they finish work; wash their hands or other vulnerable areas of skin with a proprietary cleanser; and apply a moisturiser or protective cream.

Just as importantly, workers should not clean their skin with turps or petrol. These can remove grease and oil quickly but may lead to unpleasant skin conditions.

Workers should also wash their hands thoroughly before eating during the day. Chemicals can easily transfer to food and cause internal as well as external problems.

People who work outdoors should use sunscreen and wear a hat, sunglasses and a long-sleeve shirt. This improves their chances of avoiding skin cancer.

Avoidance and Management

There are three main ways to avoid and manage breathing and skin problems at work. The first is to recognize and minimise the risk. The second is to take preventive measures such as wearing protective clothing and using masks. Finally, workers who believe they may have the symptoms of a problem should see a doctor immediately.

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[Add a Comment]
Rene - Your Question:
Our work has sent a threatening letter to the nigh shift hygiene team that they must see the nurse for a health check up, no one is refusing to go but they have asked if the nurse could come in early on night shift and they would start early to see her this used to happen when it was our other nurse but she has now left and the new nurse won't do this. It is not a different doctors practise it's the same one as our last nurse works for. We Are expected to go in during the day on a Monday or Tuesday between 8:30-16:00. Our shift does not finish until 06:00. Some of us work Sunday to Thursday and its difficult to get up during the day to see to our appointments because it's not during working hours and transport is costing us extra. Is there anything we can do or do we need to get a warning for not attending

Our Response:
Can your employer liaise with the doctor's practice or consider using a different practice completely? How much have they tried to resolve your problem? Is there any chance of some time off in lieu to catch up on any lost sleep/time? Is this a regular occurrence? If it's only every few years then it's reasonable to expect you to attend. If it's on a more frequent basis, you might want to call ACAS to find out whether they know of any other options you could consider.
SafeWorkers - 23-Feb-16 @ 2:38 PM
Our work has sent a threatening letter to the nigh shift hygiene team that they must see the nurse for a health check up, no one is refusing to go but they have asked if the nurse could come in early on night shift and they would start early to see her this used to happen when it was our other nurse but she has now left and the new nurse won't do this. It is not a different doctors practise it's the same one as our last nurse works for . We Are expected to go in during the day on a Monday or Tuesday between 8:30-16:00. Our shift does not finish until 06:00. Some of us work Sunday to Thursday and its difficult to get up during the day to see to our appointments because it's not during working hours and transport is costing us extra. Is there anything we can do or do we need to get a warning for not attending
Rene - 22-Feb-16 @ 8:58 PM
I work in an air conditioned office, and the air conditioning has been turned off as some complaining about the cold. The atmosphere is stuffy, dry and unfortunately sets me off coughing which in turn sets me off wheezing, resulting in possible asthma attack. I do have a humidifier, supplied by the company but often feel I ned to open a window and promptly get told to shut. What can I do?
LY - 16-Jan-13 @ 8:05 PM
i have a sever breathing problem but only when i put myself under exertion.what can i do to eleviate this problem
charliecat - 10-Jun-12 @ 7:55 PM
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