ARTICLE: Promoting Skin Health at Work

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Although early recognition and treatment of occupational disease can make a big difference to health outcomes and successful return to work, awareness of the exposure risks and prevention activities for occupational disease remains low.

As part of an initiative to address this problem, the Centre for Research Expertise in Occupational Disease has joined efforts with Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) to launch a series of research-based skin health prevention posters for use in workplaces.

The posters can be used as-is or they can be customized to be relevant to different workplaces. Organizations may use a simple online tool developed by WSPS to select, from a wide offering, images and prevention practices that resonate the most with their workers. These products will be freely available and accessible to all companies across the province and Canada. The posters and tool were developed as part of a research project to find out what messages and images would be most effective for promoting skin health at work.

For the project, the research team interviewed over 30 front-line workers and asked them to provide feedback regarding different posters and whether they were effective in raising awareness and promoting healthy skin practices. The results showed that negative messaging—that is, depicting the negative outcomes of occupational skin disease—was most effective for capturing workers’ attention. Workers also responded best to messages that were relevant to their specific workplace and industry.

In our pilot testing, workers suggested placing the posters in washrooms and lunchrooms, where they are most likely to be noticed. They recommended rotating the posters regularly, to prevent the messages from becoming “stale.”

Based on this feedback, the research team created a suite of seven occupational skin disease awareness posters with the kind of messaging requested by workers, and then customized them to various industries. Each poster in the series promotes an occupational health and safety prevention practice. To date, in addition to the generic posters, we have customized series for hairdressing, vehicle sales and service, and food services.

To access the posters and customization tool, simply go online to www.wsps.ca/OSDposters. There you will find several templates and an image library that can be used for building your poster. Place the images into the poster template and download a printable PDF. The posters are sized using standard page sizes so you can print right from your own computer. The photo library will continue to grow over the coming months.

These posters are part of a multi-year initiative by the Centre for Research Expertise in Occupational Disease to address low awareness of exposure risks and prevention measures of occupational disease. The initiative begins by identifying the needs of front-line occupational health and safety professionals regarding occupational disease, and then addresses those needs with evidence-based products and tools.

One outcome of this initiative will be a Skin Heath at Work toolbox, now under development in partnership with one or more system partners. In addition to the posters and customization tool, the toolbox will also include an e-learning module, fact sheets and a plain-language synthesis of research on skin disease. Each resource is being carefully piloted and then refined to ensure its effective use. In addition, wherever possible, the toolbox will be customized for specific sectors or business settings. Once complete, we will seek continual improvement based on user feedback and new research evidence, to ensure the products remain relevant and effective for years to come.