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An overview of skin-related injuries on the job

West Virginia employees in varying lines of work may face related risks involving exposure to hazardous agents that could cause injuries or occupational diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that at least 13 million individuals in the U.S. may face chemical exposure. Unfortunately, the focus in a work environment tends to be directed more at agents that could be inhaled than on those that could affect the skin. The standardization of assessment methods for addressing skin exposures is lacking.

The CDC notes that occupational skin diseases are among the most common types of work-related diseases. Dermatitis related to irritant or allergic contact is possible. Skin cancers, injuries, and infections are also issues. The annual costs of contact dermatitis can be more than $1 billion per year. Industries in which such workplace injuries are particularly common include health care, food service, cosmetology, and cleaning. Agriculture, painting, and construction professionals are also particularly vulnerable. Mechanics and those working in printing or lithography also face significant risks.

As the largest organ of the body, the skin represents one-tenth of the body's mass. It serves many important health functions, including protection, temperature control, water preservation, and tactile sensation. These can be negatively affected by contact with chemical, biological, or physical agents. Abrasions and other mechanical trauma can also affect the skin. In attempting to avoid such skin diseases, an employee may want to focus on safety wear and correct protocol in handling potential agents that could affect the skin. In a case of accidental skin contact with a hazardous material, it is important to follow established protocol for seeking treatment.

Workers' compensation benefits may be sought if an OSD occurs. Employers are typically required to carry insurance to cover issues such as workplace illnesses and injuries. If an employer is uncooperative when an employee seeks appropriate benefits after suffering an occupational injury, legal assistance may be important.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Skin Exposures & Effects", December 28, 2014

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