Wet work (working in moist/humid conditions)

Skin conditions are among the most frequently reported occupational illnesses and make up 1/3 of all occupational illnesses. 30% of skin conditions are caused by wet work.
This is understood as activities in which employees

  • regularly carry out work with their hands in a wet environment for more than 2 hours, or
  • have to wash or disinfect their hands frequently or intensively, or
  • regularly wear liquid-proof gloves for more than 2 hours

Chemical protective gloves (made e.g. from nitrile, chloroprene, latex, Viton) are always liquid-proof. Depending on how long they are worn and on individual disposition, wearing these gloves can lead to the accumulation of heat and moisture against the skin with no means of evaporation. This creates favourable conditions for the emergence of skin conditions. Skin already damaged by wet work can easily absorb hazardous substances.
As a result, wet work is presented as a medium risk under the Technical Rule for Hazardous Substances 401 (TRGS 401).

Protective measures

Protective gloves should not be worn longer than necessary and efforts should be made to alternate between activities with and without liquid-proof gloves. When choosing protective gloves, the wearer should make sure the gloves are the right size and fit. The frequency with which gloves are changed should be determined as part of the risk assessment.
By applying special skin protection products containing tannins before putting on the gloves, the swelling capacity of hard skin can be reduced so that the skin's barrier effect is better maintained. The maximum time to wear gloves without changing them should not exceed 4 hours. More than 4 hours is regarded as detrimental under the Hazardous Substances Ordinance (Gefahrstoffverordnung) and therefore is not permitted as a permanent measure.

The employer must determine whether the criteria for wet work are present. Every employee regularly carrying out more than 2 hours of wet work is to be offered special occupational medical precautions (offer of provision) in accordance with the Ordinance on Occupational Health Care (Verordnung zur arbeitsmedizinischen Vorsorge, ArbMedVV) Appendix Part 1 (2).
In accordance with ArbMedVV Appendix Part1 (1), special occupational medical precautions (compulsory provision) must be arranged for wet work lasting more than 4 hours a day.

Detailed information can be found at:
http://www.gischem.de/e5_prod/glossar.htm?view_search_Glossar_Schluesselwort_EQ=Feuchtarbeit