Protecting your skin and hands when engaging in Construction Work

During construction work your hands and skin are exposed and susceptible to physical, chemical and radiation hazards.

Personal hand/skin protection are often the only means of protecting hands from injury caused by physical hazards (caused by sharp or jagged edges on materials or tools), heat, vibration, corrosive or toxic chemical, ultraviolent radiation particularly if workers spend most of their time outdoors.

Some of the physical hazards affecting hands include sharp edges, splinters and heat. The best form of PPE for these is leather gloves because cotton gloves will not be sufficient to protect against harm.

Training on the appropriate and safe use of tools and machinery that can present a hazard to workers hands should be conducted to ensure workers are using tools and machinery correctly. Incorrect use of some tools and machinery can result in serious injury to the hands and arms, in fact in some instances workers have lost fingers due to injuries caused by incorrect use tools.

Another hazard that can affect hands is the vibration transferred from tools and equipment can affect hands and arms. A common condition that can result is hand/arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). This condition can cause circulation problems, sensory problems and musculoskeletal issues.

Preventing HAVS means employers must provide workers with power tools with built-in vibration reducing components and allow sufficient breaks when working with vibrating tools.

Workers should wear appropriate clothing in cooler weather to maintain core body temperature and wear gloves whenever possible.

To protect against chemical hazards the material safety data sheet (MSDS) for the product being used should identify whether gloves are needed and what they should be made of. MSDSs must be available on site for all workers to access whenever the controlled chemical is being used.

Ultraviolet radiation is another hazard to worker’s skin and hands especially in recent years when countless numbers of people have gotten skin cancer from unprotected excessive exposure to the sun. Construction workers are particularly susceptible because they spend so much time outdoors in the direct sunlight.

Workers should apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater to all exposed skin areas. Also ensure that the ears and back of the neck is covered. The sunscreen should be applied 20 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun and should be reapplied every two hours.

Also don’t forget to protect the lips. Use an SPF 30 or higher sunscreen lip balm and reapply every two hours just as you would sunscreen. Remember skin cancers can develop on lips as well.

Workers should not neglect the back of their necks and wear protection for this area. Neck protectors are available that clip onto your hard hat.

Workers should also wear UV-absorbent safety glasses and clothing that covers as much of the skin as possible. Tightly woven material will offer greater protection as a physical block to UV rays and should be loose rather than fitted especially in hotter weather.

Workers should be provided with adequate shaded areas for breaks and lunch out of the sun.

Most importantly ensure that all workers are educated on the hazards of UV radiation as well as all the hazards to their hands and skin and the safety measures which can be implemented to control them before they even begin working on the site.

For more info on PPE on construction sites refer to the White Card course at


Posted by Construction Safety News Admin
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