SafeShop: Proper Care for Your Most Important Tools
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SafeShop: Proper Care for Your Most Important Tools

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The economy may be floundering, but a great way to fight back is to focus on your strengths: top-quality service, frugality and working smart — using every tool at your disposal. And among your most important tools are your hands.

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Taking care of your hands — and your employees’ hands — makes your lives a little bit easier, and easier to focus on those strengths. Now there’s a new technology that helps your hands maintain their peak condition.

Soap.

What’s new about a technology that’s older than the wheel? Many changes have been made to this once-simple product over the years.

Up to the 1800s, soap was made by combining oil and vegetable fats with potash. Then came the industrial chemists allowing soap to be mass-produced more cheaply than ever before. This also meant removing some of the ingredients that slowed the process down, ­ingredients that your hands need to stay healthy.

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The 1890s saw the invention of putting pumice into soap, and a few years later came the formula for liquid soaps.

Hard-Working Hands
Back in those days, mechanics, steel workers and machinists went to work for three to five hours, and then broke for lunch. They sat and ate their white bread sandwiches with dirty hands. (The famous black-and-white photo of turn-of-the-century construction workers sitting atop a steel girder on a New York City high rise with their lunch pails comes to mind.) They worked for another three to five hours, washed up with abrasive soap and went home.

Today, there are a lot fewer steelworkers, machinists and mechanics. Those that remain have a far different work day than those of the past. They arrive early and set up ­machines, or prepare cars for the necessary service or repair. Then they have paperwork, followed by some hands-on work and possibly some computer work. Customers come in and need attention, calls are made, a trainee is set up to do an oil change, and then it’s time to help with a brake job. Back in the office to order parts, then back in the shop to tear down an engine. It’s finally time to head across the street for lunch with the city business director to discuss handling next year’s maintenance for the city’s fleet.

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Every single pass from shop to office, from parts to customer means another hand washing. Another pass under the water, another exposure to some possibly harsh chemicals.

Handle with Care
Research shows that many technicians are washing their hands more than eight times a day. (Babcox Research, 2009) What does this do to the hands? The effects upon skin are dramatic. It’s stripped of all protective oils by the chemicals, while the abrasives scour the skin surface, removing a small part of the outer layer each time you wash. Of course, much of the dirt is also removed, but at what cost to your health?

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What happens when you wash again and again? Hands become raw, drying out easily, and cracks appear at the cuticles. In extreme cases your hands may begin to bleed. These are the typical symptoms of eczema, and though the possible causes of eczema are many, the conclusions are the same — your hands aren’t healthy.

This combination of changes in how we work, how many times we wash our hands and even our greater fear of germs are all leading to the same thing — an increase in hand problems.

Put Up Your Dukes
There is a way to fight back. Look for a soap that has been designed expressly for technicians and machinists and that has a strong lotion component, but also includes strong cleaning components designed specifically to remove oil and grease. Equally important as what the soap includes is what it does not — too-harsh abrasives. Finally, look for a soap that has the ability to help your hands repair themselves better the more you use it.

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Don’t think a soap can make your hands feel better? Put a few to the test. Feel the difference in the lather, how clean your hands get and even the way your skin feels after the first wash. Keeping the lotion layer on your skin after washing uses even less water, although it still takes about a minute for the lotion to be fully absorbed. (This is especially true with soaps that have a foam formulation as well.)

Finally, some soaps are able to boast the ability of being all natural, and have the ability to remove or kill bacteria as effectively as most anti-bacterial soaps.

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So, for one of the most important tools in your shop, think about a small change that can add up to big benefits for yourself and your employees. 

Courtesy of Uncle Earl’s Soap.

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