Information on Occupational Dermatitis
- Suggested steps
- Useful links to further information
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Dermatitis can often be related to workplace factors. It is characterised by redness, itching, scaling, rashes, hives or blistering of the skin.
The two common forms of dermatitis usually seen in the workplace are allergic dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis. When the skin comes into contact with certain substances at work, this can cause occupational dermatitis to occur. things which might cause occupational dermatitis include cleaning products, organic solvents, metalworking fluids, cement, adhesives, other chemicals, and even certain plants.
Substances causing occupational dermatitis are divided into two groups known as irritants and sensitisers. Irritants act directly on the skin through chemical reactions. With sensitisers, skin reactions may not be caused on initial contact, but after repeated exposure, some people will have an allergic reaction. The employer has an important role in controlling workplace exposures to agents which cause occupational dermatitis and in providing appropriate health surveillance and encouraging employees to report symptoms at an early stage.
- Identify all known primary skin irritants and sensitisers which the employer's risk assessment shows to be used in the workplace. Further information and guidance on risk assessment and health surveillance is available in the COSSH regulations 2002 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
- Implement effective control measures to reduce the risk of exposure. Consider substitution of these potential skin irritants/sensitisers with agents that have lower skin reactivity. Provide adequate hygiene facilities, soaps and barrier creams, and appropriate PPE (e.g. gloves and coveralls).
- Encourage early reporting of symptoms and protect the individual from further exposure while the cause of the symptoms is fully investigated. Other individuals in the same work group may have similar skin problems. Risk assessment and risk management strategies should be reviewed. Investigate employees' concerns. Consult safety representatives and employees.
- Establish contact with the employee at an early stage to ensure that they have access to the appropriate advice and support from their GP, and where available Occupational Health service. Referral to a dermatologist may be appropriate.
- Regular health surveillance for all employees exposed or likely to be exposed to an agent which may cause occupational dermatitis should be established. An occupational health professional should be consulted with, to agree the extent and frequency of surveillance. A health record should be maintained for each individual. records should be maintained for 40 years.
- Exposure must be controlled to prevent triggering further skin problems if an individual has developed occupational dermatitis. If a doctor confirms that an employee is suffering from occupational dermatitis, this must be reported as an occupational disease to the HSE under RIDDOR 1995.
- Explain the likely workplace causes of occupational dermatitis and how to recognise the symptoms. Information and training should be provided on skin hygiene and skin care at work, correct use and maintenance of PPE, and reporting procedures.
- Promote good personal hygiene and good housekeeping in the workplace. Encourage employees who are potentially at risk of occupational dermatitis to examine their skin regularly.
- HSE page on occupational skin problems
- HSE COSHH Essentials Site
- Web-safety.com dermatitis info
- HSE Publications
- The British Association of Dermatologists
- The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/2677)
- COSHH A brief guide to the Regulations
- Preventing Dermatitis at work - Advice for employers and employees (ISBN 0 7176 1246 5)
- Occupational dermatitis in the catering and food industries - HSE information sheet - Food Sheet No 17
- Cement - HSE information sheet - Construction Information Sheet No 26 (revision2)
- HSG205Assessing and managing risks at work from skin exposure to chemical agents (ISBN 0 7176 1826 9)
- MS24 Health surveillance of occupational skin disease (ISBN 0 11 885583 2)