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Industrial Dermatitis Guide

Dermatitis is inflammation of the skin that can occur when you come into contact with a particular hazardous substance or irritant. It is a type of eczema that causes skin to become itchy and red, sometimes accompanied with burning sesnations.

Warning sign – potential irritant contact dermatitis
Photo by stijnh via Creative Commons

What is Industrial Dermatitis?

The definition of industrial dermatitis is where skin inflammation is brought about by coming into contact with a substance whilst performing during the course of your employment. This condition can also be referred to as occupational dermatitis.

There are two types of industrial dermatitis:

Irritant Contact Dermatitis - caused by contact with hazardous substances which can damage the skin

Allergy Contact Dermatitis - caused by a sensitive reaction to substances which cause the immune system to react in an abnormal way which affects the skin

What are the causes of industrial dermatitis?

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The condition can appear after someone has been exposed to irritants over a prolonged period, or allergens over a brief period. Examples of common irritants and allergens are listed below:

Irritants

  • Cleaning products (detergents, disinfectants etc)
  • Pesticides
  • Perfumes or hair dyes
  • Oils
  • Alcohol based hand sanitiser gels

Allergens

  • Adhesives and glues
  • Metals (gold, nickel, coins etc)
  • Latex or rubber
  • Plants (poison ivy, poison oak etc)
  • Preservatives

What are the symptoms of industrial dermatitis?

The symptoms of industrial dermatitis can vary depending on the person affected, but typically they include:

  • Redness of the skin
  • Swelling
  • Itching (usually allergic dermatitis)
  • Stinging/Burning (usually irritant dermatitis)
  • Flaky or dry skin
  • Blisters and hives

If the dermatitis is caused by an irritant, the affected area tends to be more widespread, where as if caused by an allergen, only the part of skin which touched the offending substance is usually affected.

What should I do if I think I have industrial dermatitis?

If you know you have come into contact with a substance which affects you, you should wash the area with cool water and a mild soap immediately to remove all the substance. Anti-histamine tablets and cooling lotions (such as calamine) sponged on the affected area can help relive itching in the short term, and you should avoid using any cosmetics or perfumed lotions and soaps until it subsides. However for symptoms which persist for more than 2-3 days, or are more severe, you should seek medical attention for the appropriate treatment.

You should also make your employer aware if you suffer a reaction to a particular substance, so that they can take steps to reduce (or avoid altogether) your exposure to that substance where possible.

Can I make an industrial dermatitis compensation claim?

Employers do have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to ensure their employees are safe and not exposed to any substances which could cause injury. If you think you may be suffering from industrial dermatitis, please contact us and one of our specialist Industrial Disease Lawyers will be able to advise you whether you are able to make a claim.




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