Preventing Occupational Dermatitis

There are a number of best practice recommendations that should help to reduce the risk of an employee developing occupational dermatitis. An employer should be aware of their responsibilities with regards to protecting the health of employees – see our employers legal responsibility section for more details.

There are various ways in which an employee could be at risk of developing dermatitis so prevention methods can be tailored specifically towards different types of high risk occupations such as the catering profession, health services, hairdressers, etc. but there is a general checklist as denoted by the UK Health and Safety Executive that can be considered as a sound basis for attempting to prevent the condition. They recommend using the APC approach which stands for Avoid, Protect and Control.

Avoid

Attempting to avoid situations that may cause dermatitis to develop is a particularly effective strategy.

This could involve removing the harmful substance from the workplace entirely or substituting it for something that is known to be not harmful.

Reducing the activity that can cause dermatitis could be helpful, such as reducing or eradicating wet work if possible.

Effective controls and policies in the workplace should be in place to guide employees in order to reduce risk.

Protect

It may be impossible to avoid contact with the irritant or allergen (particularly in the workplace setting) so using effective control mechanisms can work well.

Creating a barrier between the skin and the harmful substance is important so gloves or protective clothing can be used to achieve this.

Washing with hot and cold water (particularly before eating) and the wearing of gloves.

When washing it is important to ensure that any contaminant is washed and removed from the skin and the skin is dried effectively using towels that are disposable.

Moisturising the skin can help to re-introduce the essential oils needed in the skin to keep healthy at the end of a work day.

Check

Regular skin checks are useful among those employees that may be at risk or those that feel that they may be exhibiting some of the symptoms of occupational dermatitis. By catching the onset of dermatitis early it will help to increase the chances of a sufferer making a full recovery.

Regular checks are also a good indicator as to whether the employer has an effective Health and Safety policy with regards to exposing staff to potentially harmful substances or working practices.