In: Industrial Disease

Last week was National Eczema Week which aims to increase awareness around the diagnosis, management and treatment of skin-related complaints.

It is estimated that up to 10% of adults will live with eczema at some stage of their lives.

Eczema is a general term for skin conditions that can be caused by a variety of factors including :-

  • Atopic eczema/dermatitis which is often suffered by atopic individuals who may be prone to allergies and other conditions such as asthma or hay fever;
  • Seborrheic dermatitis which effects certain skin zones including the face, chest and scalp;
  • Discoid eczema/dermatitis which causes circular and/or oval patches of affected skin;
  • Contact irritant dermatitis.

Contact dermatitis is caused by exposure to particular substances that irritate the skin and which may result in sore, dry and cracked skin.

These irritants can sometimes be found in the workplace and may be substances with which people come in to contact regularly. The presence of these irritants can be obvious. However, it may be the case that the substance is not one that would be readily regarded as a possible skin irritant, except in the case of prolonged exposure which may give rise to skin damage such as regular ‘wet work’ (working with wet hands) or frequent handwashing.

There are some roles which are at a greater risk of exposure to irritants and which may lead to a skin complaint. These include but are not limited to; healthcare workers, florists, cleaners, hairdressers, gardeners/maintenance workers and those in the catering professions. It is not only exposure to irritants that can cause skin complaints. Any type of ‘wet work’ puts you at risk of developing dermatitis/eczema.

It is estimated that there are 18,000 people currently working in the UK who are suffering from a skin complaint that they feel has been caused by, or made worse by occupational exposure to irritants. In 2019 alone it is estimated that there were 1,018 new cases of work-related skin diseases. This figure does not include the many individuals who are treated effectively by their GP or through self-medication.

It can be difficult to work out whether your skin complaint has been caused by occupational exposure to irritants or if whether is another form of atopic eczema/dermatitis.

Some general considerations may be to consider the location of the affected skin i.e. is it the hands and/or face areas? Has it developed during your time in a particular employment/industry and does it improve when you are away from work? If any of the aforementioned apply then it may be the case that something to which you are or were exposed at work is causing your skin problems.

Eczema is often easily treated by a pharmacist, GP or dermatologist and who may suggest creams and/or ointments to ease symptoms. In cases of irritant contact dermatitis, such treatments may be recommended together with advice on preventing contact with the suspected irritant, either through the provision of adequate protective equipment or through a change in your operational role which can be discussed with you manager or supervisor at work.

Read more on our occupational eczema solicitors page

If you feel that you may have suffered from eczema due to negligence in your workplace, then get in touch today.

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    Annabel Chadwick

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