Tips To Avoid Contact Dermatitis In The Workplace

The first thing on your mind when you choose a sleeve is probably cut protection. But it’s just as important to find a sleeve that keeps your workers comfortable. Sleeves that itch or irritate can cause contact dermatitis – a painful condition that may cause workers to roll down or even take off their sleeves to work unprotected.

Learn more about contact dermatitis – the most common type of
work-related skin condition – and what you can do to prevent it.

What is it?
A very uncomfortable, non-contagious skin condition.

What does it look like?
It appears as an itchy, red, scaly rash. 
Where does it appear?
Your workers can get it anywhere on their body, but sleeve-related contact dermatitis is most common at the wrist and in the crook of the arm.

What causes contact dermatitis?

Sweating Material Irritants
Sleeve contamination is the most common cause of contact dermatitis and is often found in work environments with airborne debris or chemical exposure. Contaminants like oils, solvents, metal shavings, grease, acids, etc. can soak through sleeve materials and onto a worker’s skin. And contaminants plus sweat add up to a whole lot of irritation. Moisture and contact dermatitis go hand in hand. Moisture-saturated skin breaks easily and the friction between sleeve materials and broken skin make itchiness and rash much more likely.

Cut-resistant materials that are made with fiberglass or steel can deteriorate over time. Fragments in the material may cause irritation for workers with especially sensitive skin. Heavyweight, tight-fitting materials also cause friction against the skin and trap heat, which leads to sweating (see sweating!).

Prevention Tips
Sweating Material Irritants
  • Have workers wash their hands and arms regularly.
  • Launder sleeves more often.
  • Try barrier creams.

  • Choose a single ply sleeve over double ply to keep arms cooler.
  • Find a material that wicks moisture away from the skin.
  • Avoid highly absorbent materials. Absorbsent materials keep sweat close to the skin, making the problem worse.
  • Choose a fiber blends like HPPE or Hyperon that feels cool to the touch and minimizes sweating.
  • Choose a material that is lightweight and doesn’t hold heat.
  • Choose a cut-resistant material made with coreless technology. New material blends are now available with all the cut protection of traditional sleeves and none of the fibers that can irritate sensitive skin.
The next time you shop for sleeves, remember to consider comfort and not just cut protection. And keep an eye out for workers who are suffering from sleeve irritations!
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