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Skin diseases are a common work-related illness. In fact, in 2018 the Health and Safety Executive estimated there are over 7,000 new cases of self-reported skin problems annually.

Furthermore, according to the Labour Force Survey there are an estimated 17,000 workers in the UK suffering from skin problems they believe to have been caused or aggravated by their working conditions.

According to The Health and Occupation Reporting network’s EPIDERM scheme the majority of these cases are contact dermatitis caused by exposure to allergens or irritants. Substances that can cause the condition include detergents, solvents, cements or even water. However, according to dermatologists, contact with soaps and cleaning materials and persistent work with wet hands are the commonest causes of occupational contact dermatitis.

Some of the occupations with the highest rates of occupational skin disease include floristry, hairdressing, beautician work, food preparation and certain sections of the manufacturing and health-care related industries.

What is the cause of dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis is a skin condition triggered by the skin's reaction to a substance it encounters. It manifests in two primary forms:

Allergic contact dermatitis, constituting approximately 20% of cases, emerges as an allergic response to a specific substance. The sensitization process may take months or years, but once sensitised, symptoms like inflammation, itchiness, and blistering tend to recur upon subsequent exposure. Common triggers include hairdressing chemicals, plants, formaldehyde, nickel, cobalt, rubber, and makeup.

Irritant contact dermatitis, comprising the remaining 80% of cases, occurs when a substance damages the skin's outer layer. While some chemicals can irritate the skin with just one exposure, others necessitate repeated contact, as seen in professions like hairdressing, which involves frequent exposure to water and detergents. Substances such as cement, washing up liquid, bleach, soap, solvents, dusts, and paints can induce this form of dermatitis.

Employers bear a legal obligation to safeguard employees against prolonged exposure to substances that could cause dermatitis and to provide comprehensive risk information. Failure to do so, resulting in dermatitis development, may warrant contact dermatitis claims for compensation.

Concerned about initiating  contact dermatitis claims? Contact us, and we'll discuss your options in detail.

Symptoms of Contact Dermatitis

Work-related dermatitis often develops as a result of an interaction with a hazardous substance, which leads to a form of the condition more specifically known as contact dermatitis.

Some of the substances that are most liable to cause contact dermatitis include soap and detergents, cement, and disinfectants. The frequent use of these substances in some occupations makes developing contact dermatitis on the job a very likely risk for some workers. 

However, the substances that contribute to this uncomfortable condition aren't always ones that are traditionally considered hazardous. In fact, constant exposure to water (especially if it's hard, chalky water or has been highly chlorinated) greatly increases a person's risk of developing dermatitis.

Symptoms of contact dermatitis tend to appear more quickly than they do in other forms of the condition, usually developing within 48 hours of exposure. Sometimes it can happen immediately; a red rash that is itchy and painful is the most common symptom of dermatitis caused by an irritant.

The severity of symptoms will largely vary from person to person because different people have different skin sensitivities to particular substances. Most people who suffer from dermatitis are likely to experience some, or possibly all, of the following:

  • Dry skin
  • Inflammation or redness
  • Itchiness
  • Swelling
  • Flaking
  • Blistering
  • Cracking
  • Bleeding
  • The formation of pus

Symptoms may also get progressively worse, especially if there is an infection, causing intense, increasing pain; discharge from the skin; and a high temperature. You should always contact your doctor if your symptoms are causing you a great deal of pain, discomfort, and distress, or if they are persistent and do not improve over time.

Treatment for Contact Dermatitis

If you think that you are suffering from dermatitis you should make an appointment with your doctor without delay. Treatment for contact Dermatitis is vital.Your doctor will be able to prescribe treatment for you, and to refer you to a specialist if necessary.

To clear the symptoms, your doctor may suggest the following:

  • A moisturiser (emollient) may be all that is needed in mild cases. This will help to ease the itching and cool the inflammation.
  • A topical steroid ointment may also help to reduce the inflammation, but it is a short term measure only.
  • In more severe cases, your doctor may prescribe steroid tablets.
  • Other treatments are available if these do not work, including exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light

Ultimately, however, contact dermatitis is best treated by avoiding the substance that causes it.

This is not always easy.  Sometimes it is not obvious what is causing the reaction, especially in cases of allergic contact dermatitis. The solution is often to try ‘patch testing’, where a skin specialist will deliberately place suspect substances on small patches of your skin to check whether there is a reaction.

In addition, if the dermatitis is caused by a substance in your workplace, you may not be able to avoid coming into contact with it unless you actually change your job.

In this case it is essential that you adopt a good hand care routine:

  • Keep your hands as dry as possible
  • Wear protective gloves when using chemicals or detergents or any other irritant substance
  • A barrier cream may also help
  • Soap may be too strong for you – try a milder cleanser
  • Use moisturiser to keep the skin on your hands pliable
  • Be especially careful in winter, when the wind and cold will dry your skin even more

If you suffer from a skin condition that has been caused or made worse by your working conditions, you could be entitled to make a compensation claim.

Start your compensation claim now. Call us for no win no fee help and advice.

High Risk Jobs for Contact Dermatitis 

Some workers are more at risk of contracting dermatitis than others because of the nature of their job and how frequently they come into contact with certain materials.

These workers include florists, hairdressers and barbers, cooks, beauticians, and metal working machine operatives – all of whom work with chemicals. However, it's not just contact with chemicals that can lead to the itchy, painful rash associated with dermatitis; seemingly more mundane substances, such as soap and water, can contribute to the disease as well. As a result, dermatitis can be contracted in almost any workplace.

2008 to 2017: 5 Occupations with Highest Dermatitis Rates

9080706050403020100FloristsCases per 100,000 workers per yearBeauticiansHairdressersCooksMetal Workers76.769.967.562.943.7

Workers most at risk of developing dermatitis

Since there are many substances that can lead to the development of contact dermatitis, there are equally as many jobs that are at risk of suffering the condition. In particular, high incidence rates of dermatitis are found among workers in the following industries:

  • Caterers and food processing – The number of times workers are required to wash their hands is a contributing factor.
  • Ceramic and pottery workers – Their artistic work may come at a cost to their dermatological health because of the amount of "wet work" they are required to carry out.
  • Construction workers – There are many hazards on a construction site, not least of which is the exposure to substances that cause dermatitis, such as cement, dusts, solvents, detergents, and sand.
  • Farmers and agricultural workers – Their work exposes them to a wide range of hazardous substances including chemicals, dusts, preservatives, detergents, solvents, and pesticides.
  • Mechanics and engineers – They often come into contact with toxic chemicals, detergents, oils, chromium, cobalt, and solvents.
  • Medical practitioners – Doctors, nurses, dentists, and most medical and health care practitioners make frequent use of detergents, disinfectants, and chemicals. To maintain hygiene standards, they also have to repeatedly wash their hands.
  • Painters and decorators – They deal with paint, solvents, and dusts, all of which are common causes.

Other occupation-related skin diseases

EPIDERM reports that, after contact dermatitis, the following are some of the commonest occupational skin diseases:

  • Urticaria
  • Folliculitis
  • Acne
  • Infective skin diseases caused by exposure to bacteria or fungi
  • Mechanical skin disease
  • Skin cancer

Cosmetic Industry Contact Dermatitis Claims

Contact dermatitis is an inflammatory disorder of the skin. Typically, contact dermatitis occurs on those areas of the skin which have come into contact with irritants or allergens.

Symptoms of dermatitis include swelling, redness of the skin, the accumulation of fluid-filled cyst-like growths and, in more severe cases, dryness and thickening of the skin that leads to cracking and fissuring.

It is essential that employers in the beauty and cosmetics industry take swift action to recognise when workers are or may be at risk of developing contact dermatitis; 89% of first-time sufferers report an improvement in symptoms following intervention, so removal from exposure is likely to be critical to ensuring that the condition does not become chronic.

However, it is important to recognise that in around 10% of cases there is likely to be no improvement or even a worsening of symptoms. In such situations it may be necessary for affected workers to claim compensation for the suffering they endure as a result of developing contact dermatitis in the cosmetics industry. This can help provide sums to recognise the impact of any lost earnings, expenses, retraining costs or loss of employment.

A reportable disease

Contact dermatitis is a reportable disease. This means that the Reporting of Incidents, Diseases, and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) require employers to inform the Health and Safety Executive of any incidences of the condition among their workforces when the condition arises as a result of work-related exposure to irritants (chemical or biological) or sensitising agent.

Furthermore, contact dermatitis is a prescribed disease under Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) – for the cosmetic injury it Is likely to be classified under a D5 category number.

As such, if your GP determines that your contact dermatitis has disabled you by 14% or more from your normal occupational capability, you will qualify for benefit. If you have been through this process and are considered eligible for the benefit, it is likely that you will also be able to claim personal injury compensation for contact dermatitis in the cosmetics industry.

To speak with an experienced personal injury solicitor about your possible entitlement to claim, talk to Thompsons today.

The beauty and cosmetics industry 

The beauty and cosmetics industry is a major economic force in Scotland and the wider UK. It employs more than 250,000 workers – most of whom are female – across a range of large, medium, small and micro businesses, with around 42% of all participants being self-employed workers. The range of businesses types operational within the sector includes the following:

  • Hairdressing businesses
  • Tanning salons
  • Spas
  • Nail bars
  • Beauty therapists and make-up artists
  • Body art and skin piercing studios
  • Laser skin treatment practitioners
  • Micro-dermabrasion practitioners
  • Minor cosmetic procedure practitioners

As the cosmetics and beauty industry raises greater awareness of the occupational dermatitis problem – for example, Bad Hand Day in the hairdressing industry – the greater the likelihood of the problems being addressed.

Making Contact Dermatitis Claims 

In order to make claims for contact dermatitis in the cosmetics industry, you must receive a diagnosis from a GP, hospital doctor or occupational health practitioner. They will also provide you with dermatitis treatment options. Then you must prove that it is possible that you developed the condition as a result of conditions in your workplace.

Useful evidence may include the following:

  • Company accident records
  • Proof of the use of causal agents in your workplace
  • Any documentation or statements that indicate insufficient PPE
  • Evidence of your employer's health and safety procedures
  • Witness statements from colleagues

Dermatitis Compensation Claims

Thompsons Solicitors is an award-winning personal injury firm and we recover over £1 million every week for our clients. If you are suffering from dermatitis due to poor working conditions, our No Win No Fee lawyers have the experience to help you make a successful claim.

How much could you claim? Call 0800 0891 331 for free legal advice.

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