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Give me five… tips on occupational dermatitis

02 March 2020

Neil McKinley, industrial disease specialist at JMP Solicitors describes how employees working in hands-on jobs can look to five signs to ensure they’re not at risk of occupational dermatitis, one of the most common skin diseases caused by coming into contact with certain substances in the workplace.

Occupational dermatitis is a skin disease that commonly affects the hands, but can also affect other parts of the body such as the face. Dermatitis can be identified when the skin becomes red, inflamed, dry and cracked, sometimes leading to severe pain caused by blistering and breaking of the skin which can then become susceptible to infection.
Every employer has a duty of care to protect and care for their employees, as stated by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. If employees follow the correct rules and procedures, the risk of dermatitis is greatly reduced. Some people may be more at risk than others dependant on a number of factors. We’ve outlined some of the things to consider.
Here are the five signs you’re at risk of occupational dermatitis:
1) The industry you work in

It’s not just industrial workers who are at risk of dermatitis – working with cosmetics, cleaning products, construction materials, even having frequent contact with water and dust can cause the condition. Cleaners, hairdressers, beauticians, florists, kitchen workers and hospital staff are all at a high risk of developing the condition, if the correct equipment is not provided.
2) The substances you use at work
Dermatitis can be split into two common types; allergic contact and irritant contact. Allergic contact is when the skin develops an allergy when exposed to common substances such as latex, perfume, metal and cosmetics. Irritant contact is when the skin is exposed to a toxic substance such as bleach, soaps, acid and solvents. If you have developed dermatitis as a result of handling any of these substances at work, you could be entitled to compensation.
3) The equipment you use at work
Industry standard personal protection equipment is vital for protecting high-risk workers. This equipment can be anything which provides additional protection, including gloves, splash guards, overalls and masks. As well as being supplied, it’s also important that workers are trained in how to wear and use the equipment properly. Appropriate training must be given at the start of a new role and regularly throughout the employment period.
4) The length of time you’ve been working in your industry
Prolonged exposure to certain everyday materials such as latex, petroleum and even water can lead to sensitive, irritable skin. If you do find that you are exposed to these regularly, it's important that your employer provides information on how to clean and take care of your hands. Employers should have a system in place according to the HSE guidelines that ensures the regular care of high-risk workers which includes providing skin care products and instructions on how to use them. 
5) The training you’ve received
With regular changes to the law and advancements in professional equipment, it’s important that your employer abides to the latest regulations. Your personal protection equipment must also be up to date to with industry standards. Employers must be able to identify hazards and carry risk assessments to remove and minimise risks in accordance with the latest Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH).
If you think you are suffering with occupational dermatitis, a claim can be made up to three years from the date you knew or ought to have known that you were suffering, but you should always seek the advice of solicitors when making a claim.
For further advice please call Neil McKinley at JMP Solicitors on 01476 565 295.