Both occupational skin diseases (OSD) and food contamination could be avoided if effective hand hygiene practices were implemented and reviewed, hand hygiene and skin care specialist Deb UK has claimed.
According to the firm’s md Paul Jakeway, those working in food handling and manufacturing are among the highest risk OSD group, and it was a risk often overlooked by employers. “Each year, employees miss 3M days at work due to OSDs, and in more serious cases, this can lead to employees changing occupations altogether,” he said. “However, it is a problem that can be easily combatted by implementing effective and regular hand hygiene best practice.”
In June, rubber seal supplier TRP Polymer Solutions of Hereford, West Midlands was fined £40,000 plus costs after an employee was exposed to the ingredients in the rubber compounds he was handling, which proved sensitive to his skin. Meanwhile, it has been estimated by the European Dermatology Forum that the incidence of OSD in the workplace was likely to be between 10 and 50 times what is currently being reported.
“To ensure a germ-free and skin disease-free environment, a hazard analysis critical control point [HACCP] system should be effectively implemented and regularly reviewed,” said Jakeway.
“Knowing the critical handwashing points, such as before and after visiting the toilet, before preparing food and after handling raw food and equipment, is crucial for employees.”
After identifying the critical points when handwashing is essential, employers must ensure that dispensers are filled with high-performing hand sanitisers and cleansers are placed in numerous critical locations in the factory to encourage food safety compliance from all employees.
However, while using these products at regular intervals would prevent employees from cross-contaminating food, Jakeway conceded that it wouldn’t protect their hands from OSDs.
Instead, he recommended a combination of different hand hygiene products to combat the “immense strain” that hands are placed under on a daily basis.
“The use of pre-work protective creams as well as after work restorative creams are also needed to ensure hands are healthy as part of an integrated skin care programme. The first step involves the application of a ‘before work’ treatment to provide preventive care and protect the hands from exposure to arduous materials.
“Regular reconditioning of the skin is advised between washing to effectively restore the skin’s strength and health.”
Don’t miss Food Manufacture’s one-day food safety conference: ‘Boosting consumer confidence in times of change’, which takes place in London on October 13 and includes a section on factory hygiene controls and new regulations limiting the use of food factory disinfectants.