Occupational skin disease is a problem of major importance in the engineering industry. Little is known about the occupational distribution of oil folliculitis and its varying degrees of severity. This investigation was undertaken in an attempt to discover which occupations are at risk and why.
The study was conducted at an engineering factory where 200 men, whose daily work brought them in contact with mineral oils, petroleum products, or greases, were surveyed. The survey comprised a personal interview and clinical examination. The object was to determine the severity of the folliculitis and the nature of certain environmental factors which might be associated with the development of this condition.
It was found that in the occupations of capstan lathe operator and automatic lathe operator there was a significantly higher proportion of men with the more severe degrees of oil folliculitis. It was also demonstrated that in these occupations men were exposed to oil to a significant degree. The apparent inefficiency of personal hygiene as a preventive measure was thought to be due to insufficient cleansing so that oil was not properly removed from the skin. This type of occupational skin disease will remain prevalent until machines can be so designed as to eliminate or reduce contamination of the workers' skin by oil.
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↵* An abridged version of the essay that was awarded the Occupational Health Prize of the British Medical Association in 1959 and based on a thesis for the Doctorate in Medicine of the University of Aberdeen.