Employers Legal Responsibility Concerning Occupational Dermatitis

The UK Health and Safety Executive stipulate that employees and employers need to comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) which dictates how employers should assess risks in the workplace, provide control measures, offer information and training and also provide health surveillance where appropriate.

As part of the law an employer has a duty to ensure (as is reasonably possible) the health, safety and welfare of an employee whilst in work and that employees are informed and consulted about health and safety issues.

The HSE states the following general duties which should be prevalent upon employers –

  • making sure that the workplace is safe for employees without risks to health and that a health and safety policy is drawn up if the company has 5 or more employees
  • hazardous substances should be stored and used safely
  • welfare facilities should be given along with adequate information, training, instruction and supervision (there should be a dedicated person to assist with health and safety matters)
  • controlling exposure to potentially harmful substances and providing protective equipment or clothing
  • safety signs should be in place and maintained adequately
  • injuries, and diseases should be reported to the relevant parties

An employee should –

  • take reasonable care for their own health and safety and those of other colleagues
  • use protective equipment and clothing correctly
  • cooperate with health and safety policy and follow training and instructions
  • do not tamper or interfere with any health and safety provisions

As part of the COSHH it is dependent on the employer to carry out a risk assessment which focuses on skin exposure and recording the findings. The control of dermal exposure should be utilised along with dermal exposure monitoring and health surveillance.

For more information detailing the specifics of that items should be included in the specific risk assessment procedures, the Heath and Safety Executive website provides a useful and comprehensive roundup of the relevant points.