Occupational Dermatitis & It’s Impact on Your Career

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Contact Dermatitis Healthcare Workers
LLB (Hons) & LPC Stacy Pimlott
Legally reviewed by: LLB (Hons) & LPC Stacy Pimlott In: Industrial Disease

What Is Occupational Dermatitis?

Occupational Dermatitis is a skin disorder caused by coming into contact with certain chemical products in the workplace.

Occupations at Risk

Jobs with the highest rates of occupational dermatitis are florists, beauticians, cooks, hairdressers and barbers, and certain manufacturing and health-care related occupations[1]. Cleaners, Printers and construction workers are also at high risk however these are not the only careers that can be affected and it should be noted that occupational dermatitis can occur in just about any career.

Substances That Cause Occupational Dermatitis

There are many products that can cause occupational dermatitis and if you work with any soaps, shampoos, some hair dyes, detergents, certain foods, solvents, oils and greases and/or you do ‘wet work’ you could develop a problem with your skin;

Wet work is classed as activities where you have long lasting or repeated contact with water throughout your working day e.g. repeated hand washing for about 20 times per day.

Again this is not an exhaustive list and in some instances it can be the very thing that has been provided to you to protect you that can cause the dermatitis, for example you may find that the latex gloves you are wearing while using hair dye are the cause of your skin condition or that liquid is getting trapped inside your gloves during the normal course of your duties.

How Can This Affect Your Career?

Developing Occupational Dermatitis can have an affect on your day to day experiences at work;

  • You may find that it strains your relationship with your Employer, Manager and/or co-workers.
  • You may find that it is difficult to do your job effectively if your dermatitis leaves you in pain or discomfort.
  • Your condition may result in you having to take time off work to give your skin a break from the exposure and/or to attend medical appointments.

The above situations can also have long lasting effects on your career as time away from work (particularly if you are beginning your career and you are an Apprentice or Trainee) can mean you miss out on training or gaining further experience. In vocational careers such as beauty and hairdressing it can also have a detrimental effect on building the client base you are reliant on to have a successful business.

In some extreme circumstances you may find that you cannot continue with your chosen career. This is not an easy decision to come to for many and can have an affect on you financially in terms of retraining costs, finding yourself without immediate employment and/or having a reduced income as you may be starting off as a Trainee or Apprentice in a new area. You may have to begin in a probation period again and/or adapt to a new working environment.

What Can Be Done to Protect You & Your Career

Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 your employer has a duty to consider potential exposure to a hazardous substance by carrying out risk assessments. If the Risk Assessments confirm that exposure could occur then in the first instance they should always consider preventing exposure. What this means for an employee is that if possible you could be moved to a different job role or area of the business.

However if this is not possible then your employer should try to control exposure with the relevant and adequate Personal Protective Equipment for example gloves or gauntlets,  monitor the exposure, provide appropriate health surveillance  and provide appropriate information and training.

It should be noted that you can also do things as an employee to proactively protect yourself and those around you. You can ensure the relevant guidelines are followed such as wearing the correct PPE and following the right procedures regarding the use of relevant substances, equipment or machinery. You can attend and follow relevant training which ensures that you are up to date on recent risk assessments, processes and PPE requirements.

If you believe that you have developed Occupational Dermatitis you should seek medical advice from your GP or Occupational Health team as soon as possible.

If you feel that you are not being protected and/or your employer is not taking the appropriate action (as above) you should raise your concerns with your line manager or Health and Safety Representative and/or review the risk assessments that are in place. You can also raise your concerns with the HSE’s Concerns and Advice Team or your local authority.

Read more on our occupational dermatitis claims page

[1] www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/

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