Each year, there are around 7,000 reported cases of dermatitis that are caused by the workplace according to the Labour Force Survey.

Dermatitis is one of the most common skin diseases and it comes with itchy, dry skin that can be painful and working with it can be a challenge. Therefore, it is important that both employees and employers are aware of the signs because early treatment can help to prevent it from becoming severe.

Contact Dermatitis – What Is It?

This is a skin reaction when it comes into contact with a substance or a chemical and around 9% of the population suffer from it. However, in those industries where employees are exposed to these substances or chemicals, the incidence of contact dermatitis is a lot higher. This direct exposure is caused by direct contact with a substance such as latex and even washing hands frequently. There are two forms of contact dermatitis and these are known as irritant and allergic.

Irritant Contact Dermatitis

This is the more common of the two and is caused when the skin is exposed to friction, cold temperatures or water even chemicals. In this case, the skin is being damaged faster than it can repair itself and that leads to sore and inflamed skin. Some of the most common causes are:

  • Acids and alkalis
  • Adhesives
  • Detergents
  • Friction; and
  • Water

Allergic Contact Dermatitis

This is not as common as irritant contact dermatitis but the symptoms are similar although the symptoms can appear faster. This cause of this reaction is often down to a particular substance such as:

  • Cosmetics
  • Glue
  • Metals; and
  • Rubber

Industries Where Occupational Dermatitis is a Risk

Some industries come with a higher risk of occupational dermatitis such as:

  • Catering
  • Construction
  • Dentistry
  • Hairdressing
  • Health services
  • Metal machining
  • Motor vehicle repair; and
  • Printing

Work-Related Dermatitis Management

The law requires employers to look at Skin Surveillance as the law states that employers must control exposure to hazardous materials and substance that pose a risk to health. As a result, employers must consider which roles carry a risk and which employees are at risk of suffering from dermatitis. At this point, a risk assessment must be undertaken so that the correct measures can be put in place to help manage and reduce the risks.