Handling metal parts is very tough on your hands due to exposure to filings, drill bits, cutters and sharp edges. Cuts, minor lacerations, abrasions and foreign objects can cause inflammation of the skin, infections and bleeding. These risks can be reduced by wearing cut-resistant gloves and by using tongs to handle items with sharp edges. It is also important to remember to wear safety footwear and safety glasses.
Contact with chemicals and their handling can be hazardous, particularly for your skin. Such hazards are clearly stated on product labels and on safety data sheets. The main risks associated with products are explained by international pictograms indicating whether they constitute a skin or eye irritant, an allergen or a health hazard, for example through contact, absorption or inhalation. All users should ensure that they are aware of the risks associated with the products used and take appropriate precautions. Certain operations, such as the transfer of concentrated or caustic products from one container to another, require the wearing of special gloves, goggles, an apron and suitable footwear.
Protecting your hands
Cutting lubricants and especially degreasing agents are harsh on the skin. Whenever possible, you should avoid your bare hands coming into contact with such products. Guard screens, tongs and protective gloves should be used to give your skin the necessary protection.
Cut-resistant or thick leather gloves can be used to handle large metal parts. However, they provide little or no protection against sharp points. Those with a partial or complete rubber lining provide impermeability and a better grip, which reduces fatigue and increases the precision and thus the safety of handling operations. When handling small dry parts, wearing thin textile gloves with reinforced fingertips will protect your hands against dirt and minor lacerations, while also preventing the corrosion of parts caused by perspiration.
Suitable gloves in good condition
Working with unsuitable or porous gloves, or with gloves that are too short or in poor condition, is worse than working with your bare hands: chemicals can get inside the glove and attack your skin. Generally, it is better to wear long-sleeved gloves to protect your wrists. Nitrile gloves are resistant to many chemicals including cutting fluids and are also comfortable. Surgical latex gloves are not suitable for mechanical applications because they can easily tear and be punctured.
Rotating machines and parts
Rotating parts can catch on gloves and cause very serious injuries: do not wear gloves around moving parts. On the other hand, gloves are very useful when positioning and removing parts from machines at a standstill.
Cutting fluids means cutting lubricants, cutting emulsions, cutting oils, coolants and water-soluble cutting fluids. Cutting fluids are complex products containing many ingredients. They are particularly designed to allow the optimal machining of metal parts under extreme conditions such as friction, heat and high rotation speeds. Cutting fluids must remain stable despite these mechanical constraints, and have to last a long time. They contain many additives in order to achieve that. Emulsifiers are detergents that are aggressive for the skin. Other additives, such as anti-corrosion agents, viscosity modifiers, antioxidants, preservatives, dyes and perfumes, can attack the skin and cause allergic reactions. Over time, cutting fluids degrade and become contaminated with particles such as dust, metal filings, decomposition products, bacteria and pollutants. These alter their properties and their effects on the skin. Quality control is absolutely essential when using cutting fluids.
Healthy skin has a natural protective layer on the surface. This is degraded by repeated contact with cutting fluids, solvents and cleaning agents. When this layer deteriorates, the skin becomes porous. Unless the necessary steps are taken, this creates a vicious circle: repeated contact with the cutting fluids makes the situation worse and the skin becomes even more porous and sensitive.
If skin problems occur
Eczema caused by cutting fluids starts with redness and a dry and rough skin, in most cases on the back of the hands and at the bottom of the spaces between the fingers. Later, cracks appear, accompanied by a burning sensation and itchiness. What should be done if you suffer from eczema caused by cutting fluids?
- If the attack is in its early stages, or slight or moderate:
- wear gloves whenever possible
- use hand cream very regularly
- If the situation gets worse despite these preliminary measures, or spreads to areas other than the hands:
Good hygiene includes:
- washing using a non-abrasive, skin-friendly cleaner, followed by rinsing
- gentle drying using single-use paper or a clean towel, preferably from an automatic dispenser
- the application of a skincare cream. It is better to apply a thin layer of cream frequently than to apply a thick layer only once a day.
Apply hand cream regularly
Particular attention should be paid to the area around your fingernails, the bottom of the spaces between the fingers and the wrists. Non-greasy protective creams are available that are pleasant to use and that spread easily on the skin. Not everyone necessarily needs to use protective creams very frequently. Individual resistance to aggressive substances varies greatly from one person to another. In winter, the skin is generally drier, which means that the hands need to be lubricated more thoroughly and more often.
When should cream be applied?
As a general rule, a thin layer of cream should be applied every time you wash your hands. If eczema persists despite the regular application of cream, the period during which protective gloves are worn should be increased and cream should be applied at least six times a day, as follows:
- At home, in the morning, before going to work
- During the morning break
- At lunchtime
- In the middle of the afternoon
- At the end of the working day
- In the evening before going to bed. A richer cream than the one applied during the day will speed up the regeneration of the skin during the night.