There are said to be thousands of workers every year across all industries in the UK who require time off work as a result of occupational dermatitis. According to workplace equipment supplier Slingsby, dermatitis in most cases is easily preventable.

Figures from The Health & Safety Executive reveal there are approximately 40,000 new diagnoses of occupational skin diseases each year. Symptoms of dermatitis include redness; itching, scaling, rashes, hives or blistering of the skin and it can commonly be caused by soaps, cleaners, wet work and chemicals.

Lee Wright, marketing director explained, “The two most common forms of dermatitis usually seen in the workplace are allergic dermatitis or irritant contact dermatitis and the majority of businesses and organisations use substances that can cause both types.

Irritant contact dermatitis usually flares up immediately due to a chemical reaction with the skin, whereas allergic dermatitis is caused by substances having an allergic reaction after repeated exposure.

Often these can be everyday substances such as cleaning products or even plants, so employers have to take care to identify all known skin irritants in the workplace and control exposure to them. Employees should also be encouraged to report symptoms at an early stage so that issues can be addressed. In addition using personal protective equipment can greatly reduce the risks.

These tips have been compiled by the company to aim to help minimise the chances of occupational dermatitis occurring:

  • Consider substituting potential skin irritants with products that have lower skin reactivity.
  • Provide adequate hygiene facilities such as soaps and barrier creams.
  • Offer appropriate PPE, such as gloves and coveralls, in order to minimise substance contact.
  • Encourage early reporting of symptoms and protect employees from further exposure while the causes are investigated.
  • Where other individuals in the same work group have similar skin problems risk assessment and risk management strategies should be reviewed.
  • Offer regular health surveillance for all employees that are exposed to substances that can cause dermatitis and if necessary consult an occupational health professional.
  • Maintain appropriate health records for employees.
  • If a doctor confirms that an employee is suffering from occupational dermatitis, it 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 and encourage employees who are potentially at risk of the disease to examine their skin regularly.
  • Promote good personal hygiene and good housekeeping in the workplace.