Dermatitis is a skin condition which is caused from contact with an irritant or a substance that can cause an allergic reaction.
Occupational dermatitis is one of the most common causes of ill-health amongst workers.
What can cause it?
There are two types of dermatitis:
Irritant contact dermatitis – after direct contact with an irritant, either through initial contact with a strong irritant or over a longer period from repeated exposure.
Allergic contact dermatitis – occurs when the individual develops an allergy to a substance.
Common causes of dermatitis include prolonged contact with water / soaps etc., foods, chemicals and rubber / latex gloves.
Who is affected?
Dermatitis is common amongst:
- Cleaners - using bleach or similar chemicals.
- Construction workers - work with wet cement.
- Persons using solvents and degreasing agents such as painters.
- Catering staff.
What are the symptoms?
In some cases, the symptoms of dermatitis can be so bad that the sufferer is unable to carry on at work.
Symptoms of dermatitis include:
- Red / dry / cracked skin.
- Extreme itching.
What can I do to avoid it?
Control measures to reduce the likelihood of dermatitis include:
- Firstly considering if it is an issue in your workplace – do workers come into contact with agents that could cause dermatitis?
- If it is an issue deciding on what to do – can the substance be removed / substituted? Can contact be prevented by wearing gloves?
- Encouraging workers to have good personal hygiene e.g. wearing barrier cream.
- Considering the need for health surveillance to see if workers are experiencing symptoms of dermatitis.
- Providing relevant training / information to workers who may be affected.
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