Occupational Dermatitis

Occupational contact dermatitis is caused by contact with substances that irritate the skin or cause an allergic reaction Its not contagious but if untreated it may spread to other parts of the body so getting early treatment is essential

You have a right to be protected from the risk of injury or illness at work. If your job brings you into contact with oil, petrol, grease and other chemicals, your employer must take steps to ensure you don’t develop dermatitis or other skin conditions. If they fail to do so, it’s possible to bring a claim against them.

Occupational contact dermatitis is caused by contact with substances that irritate the skin or cause an allergic reaction. It’s not contagious, but if untreated it may spread to other parts of the body, so getting early treatment is essential.

It usually occurs where the irritant touches the skin directly, but this is not always the case. It can affect any part of the body but most commonly affects the hands. There are two types of contact dermatitis: irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis.

Irritant contact dermatitis can occur quickly through direct contact with strong irritants or longer periods of repeated exposure to weaker irritants. Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when the sufferer develops an allergy to a substance. Once sensitised, that susceptibility means any contact with the substance, no matter how brief, will cause dermatitis.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations, which implement the EU Chemical Agents Directive, require employers to prevent or control an employee’s exposure to such hazardous substances. This could mean providing protective equipment such as boots, masks, overalls or gloves, which in some cases would have to be latex-free.

If your employer has not complied with the relevant health and safety regulations and has not taken these precautions, should you suffer dermatitis as a direct consequence of their negligence you may be able to claim compensation.

More about dermatitis claims

Anyone involved in any sort of work using detergents and solvents is at risk from irritant contact dermatitis, as are those working regularly with oils and greases. Allergic contact dermatitis is most commonly found in people who work with some hair dyes, wet cement, printing inks and adhesives as well as certain foodstuffs (e.g. shellfish or flour).

Those irritants need not be inherently toxic. Some plants or abrasive materials, as well as repeated and prolonged contact with plain water (e.g. having wet hands for more than two hours per shift) can cause irritant dermatitis.

Avoiding the irritants or allergens that cause contact dermatitis usually clears up the condition. However, this isn’t always possible, especially if contact with the substances forms part of your work. Treatment involving emollients and corticosteroid medicines for symptoms such as redness, inflammation, dryness, itching or a burning sensation may be required.

Most people with contact dermatitis can expect their symptoms to improve after treatment, but some may experience complications such as infection which could affect your ability to work and your quality of life on a long-term basis.

If you are affected by occupational dermatitis, you could make a dermatitis claim. If successful, this would at least provide you with compensation to pay for treatments and therapies you need to manage the condition and better protect your skin and hands in future.

There are regulations in place to control the levels of exposure to rubber process dust and rubber fumes and it is important that employers abide by these regulations. The air within the working environment for rubber industries should be monitored regularly and levels of dust and fumes should be kept as low as reasonably practical. Cleanliness and a good level of ventilation are important as well as providing employees with appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as breathing apparatus and protective gloves.