Working with metals often requires interaction with certain oils and other synthetic fluids that can be irritating or damaging to the skin. According to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, a variety of skin problems can develop from exposure to metalworking fluids, the most common of which is dermatitis.
The best way to prevent skin problems is to avoid contact with metalworking fluids altogether, but this may not always be possible. Some changes in the workplace and in worker behavior should help minimize exposure.
- Keep the work area and machines clean and free of metalworking fluids and grime.
- Have functioning splashguards on all machines.
- Use less irritating metalworking fluids when possible.
- Be sure fluids are used with the correct dilution.
- Maintain metalworking fluids at the manufacturer-specified concentration and pH level.
- Ensure the cleanliness of fluids by recalculating and filtering them regularly.
- Avoid use of metalworking fluids that have been contaminated with excessive microbial organisms.
- Wear clean clothes on the job and immediately wash clothes that have been contaminated with metalworking fluids.
- Avoid placing metalworking fluid-soaked rags in pockets.
- Wear protective aprons and nitrile gloves when possible.
- Wash soiled skin areas at least twice daily with a mild, nonabrasive soap.
- Never use cleaning solvents to remove metalworking fluids, as they can increase irritation by removing even more of the skin’s natural oils.
- Wipe hands throughout the day on noncontaminated towels. Consider disposable paper towels.
- Use moisturizers such as petroleum jelly on hands before and after work.