Plumbers look after their most important tools

For plumbers and heating engineers, industrial strength trade wipes need to be powerful enough to clean filth, but it is crucial they look after their hands too.

Looking after your hands is vitally important. For plumbers and installers, your hands are your livelihood and so cleaning them effectively while still being able to care for them is crucial as skin disease on the hands can be debilitating and has serious implications when trying to continue with work. After all, your skin is your body’s largest organ and is its protective barrier.

However, if you work in a manual trade and your hands are irritated then the barrier can be broken, harmful substances can accumulate and cause sore and inflamed skin and long-term health can be affected. Skin disease can be incapacitating for the sufferer, meaning that work becomes difficult and livelihoods put in jeopardy.

There are common signs of skin problems to look for on your hands such as dryness, redness, cracking or swelling of the hands and fingers as well as blisters, flaking and itching. Workers can develop these symptoms as they come into direct contact with substances commonly used on site. If you are immersing your hands in liquids, or getting them splashed on a regular basis then your hands may suffer. Contact with contaminated tools or surfaces can also lead to harmful substances landing on the skin, causing a problem.

For heating engineers or plumbers, avoiding contact with filth can be impossible. Washing your hands is the most obvious way to get rid of potentially harmful substances but more often than not, there is no access to cleaning facilities.  Even when water and soap are readily available, they just won’t shift the majority of modern construction and maintenance products.

The HSE advises workers to use the ‘APC’ approach when it comes to looking after your hands, which stands for Avoid, Protect and Check. Logically therefore, you should avoid direct contact between unprotected hands and substances, products and wet work where this is sensible and practical. You should also protect the skin as avoiding contact will not always be possible, and check your hands for the first signs of itchy, dry or red skin.

For some plumbers, gloves might be the answer. But for many jobs, gloves are simply not suitable, and for some installers, the gloves themselves can cause problems. Uriticaria can be a reaction to gloves and can cause an almost immediate raised, itchy rash that can also cause tingling and burning. For those times when gloves cannot be used, again quick removal of the irritants is the only solution. These type of workers need a hand cleaning wipe that’s going to get rid of the mess first time, allowing them to just crack on. Furthermore, these wipes must be preservative free as some wipes contain an ingredient that is an irritant too.

A recent recommendation was made in the interests of consumer health and in response to clinical data, which shows an increase in adverse skin reactions to Methylisothiazolinone (MIT or MI) which is used in cosmetic and personal care products, such as baby wipes. Working closely with the European Society for Contact Dermatitis, the European personal care association, Cosmetics Europe, issued an industry-wide recommendation to discontinue the use of the preservative MIT in personal care products.

Big Wipes, which specialise in industrial strength wipes for the trade, anticipated these recommendations many years ago. Their formulation is preservative free and mainly water-based. In addition to four powerful cleaning agents, Big Wipes contain four dermatologically tested skin conditioners: Aloe Vera, Lanolin, Vitamin E and Glycerine ‐ all helping to nourish and protect the skin. The Big Wipes range has been assessed to the latest EU Regulation 1223/2009 for cosmetic products with zero levels of irritation recorded during controlled testing by dermatologists. The range also offers >99.9% antibacterial protection for your skin. All Big Wipes are used without water and thus are perfect for on-site use where water isn’t available.

Silicone and PU foam, for instance, are nasty products to get on your fingers and skin and are difficult to get off yourself and bathroom and kitchen surfaces. Using the 4×4 Heavy-Duty Big Wipe to clear up the occasional spill will not only get your hands clean of these repellent substances, but your tools too. The ‘one wipe and it’s gone’ biodegradable formula also ensures the removal of paint and varnishes, adhesives, oil, sealants and general grime from hands, tools and surfaces.

Individuals who are concerned they may have a skin problem should always visit their GP for advice and treatment if needed. But, as the HSE advises, protection is an important step to preventing problems from occurring. Therefore wipes might well be the answer to protecting the most important tools of all – your hands.

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This article appeared in PlumbParts December 2015