Irritants causes Contact Irritant Dermatitis (80% of occupational dermatitis)
- Irritants can be soaps or detergents which strip the skins protective layer in frequent washing or wet work.
- Irritants can be acids or alkalis which can corrode the outer layer of skin
- Irritants can physically abrade the outer layer of skin
- Common irritants are detergents, degreasers, solvents, cutting oils, wet-work
Wet work – followed by contact with soaps and cleaners
There is no hard and fast rule on when wet work is likely to be a risk. However, as a rule of thumb, prolonged contact of more than about 2 hours, or more than 20-40 hand washes/contacts a day, are likely to lead to dermatitis. Dermatitis from wet work is common in trades such as hairdressing, metal machining, catering, cleaning and healthcare.
Skin Sensitisers cause Allergic Contact Dermatitis (20% of occupational dermatitis)
The worker becomes sensitized to the substance and develops an allergic reaction to contact with the substance. Once the individual becomes sensitized each contact will cause an acute reaction.
Common sensitisers are chromates (cement), epoxy resins, formaldehyde, wood dust, and flour.
Skin checks are a crucial part of managing skin disease at work.
When employees are exposed to hazardous substances, employers need to ensure that, where appropriate, employees are under suitable health surveillance. Skin Health Surveillance is carrying out straightforward visual checks of employees' skin where there is skin exposure to hazardous substances and determining the cause of dermatitis.
Regular skin checks will help to identify the early stages of dermatitis or other skin effects caused by skin exposure.
The earlier that health effects are recognised and treated, the more likely it is that the sufferer will make a full recovery.