Has Increased Handwashing at Work Caused Your Dermatitis?

Posted on: 7 mins read
Last updated:
Kirstie Bork

Senior Associate Solicitor - Advocate, Industrial Disease

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Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, we were all more hygiene conscious than ever before, with many of us washing our hands and using sanitising products more frequently. But increased exposure to certain substances can put you at risk of developing skin conditions such as dermatitis.

A recent study by the British Society of Cutaneous Allergy, based on an audit of 200 hospital staff, found that one in five of staff required time off work due to skin conditions. The study found that, on average, hospital staff were washing their hands with soap and using alcohol-based hand sanitisers around 23 times a day. Wearing certain PPE for long periods of time also contributed towards drier skin and eczema.

If you’ve developed dermatitis or another skin condition because of your working conditions, and you believe your employer neglected to put appropriate safety measures in place to protect you, you could claim compensation to cover any treatment costs and/or loss of earnings if you’ve been unable to work.

Get in touch with our Industrial Disease Solicitors for a free claims assessment.

A man washing his hands

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To see how our expert team of Industrial Disease Solicitors can help you, call us on 0808 239 0144 or

FAQs about Dermatitis Claims

What is Dermatitis?

Dermatitis is a type of eczema, a condition that causes dry and irritated skin. It can be triggered after coming into contact with a particular substance, such as a cleaning product or soap. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and can develop on any part of the body. For most people, it’ll be their hands and/or face that are most affected.

Symptoms will usually go away once exposure to the substance has stopped but some people can experience long-lasting effects which can have a significant impact on their everyday life.

Symptoms can include:

  • Inflammation
  • Blisters
  • Dry or cracked skin
  • Toughened skin
  • Changes in skin colour e.g., lighter skin becoming red or darker skin becoming a dark brown, grey or purple
  • Burning or stinging sensations
  • Hot or cold shivers
  • Discharge from the skin
  • Feeling unwell

Dermatitis is usually caused by an irritant such as a soap, detergent or solvent coming into direct contact with the skin. But it can also be caused by an allergen, causing the body’s immune system to react in a way that impacts the skin.

A close up of a finger with dry and cracked skin

Can I Develop Dermatitis from Work?

It’s possible to develop dermatitis if you’re frequently working with certain substances or if your job requires you to wash your hands often.

This can be the case for those working in:

  • Healthcare e.g., nurses, midwives, care workers and medical practitioners
  • Food and hospitality e.g., chefs and bakers
  • Beauty e.g., hairdressers, barbers and beauticians
  • Factories
  • Automotive e.g., a mechanic

According to HR News, dermatitis is responsible for 54% of ill health in hairdressers and barbers, who regularly use products containing bleach and/or other chemicals which can cause allergic reactions.

Cooks are also 33.6 times more like to be affected by dermatitis than the occupational average as they spend a lot of time washing their hands and sterilising surfaces.

Of course, these aren’t the only professions that can put you at risk of developing dermatitis. Returning to workplaces after lockdown has led to many organisations placing a heavier emphasis on hygiene, encouraging staff to regularly wash their hands and sanitise work stations.

If you notice that your dermatitis gets worse or is triggered when you’re at work, this could mean that it’s a particular substance you’re working with that’s causing it.

What Are My Rights at Work?

Your employer is responsible for your health and safety at work and is required to carry out regular risk assessments to check that there are suitable measures in place to prevent harm wherever possible.

If your role requires you to work with harsh or even hazardous substances, your employer should make sure that:

  • You’re given personal protective equipment (PPE) e.g., gloves, goggles, masks
  • All hygiene products are as gentle as possible
  • You’re fully trained in the use of equipment and hygiene measures
  • Information is on hand for employees e.g., health and safety posters
  • They use less hazardous substances wherever possible
  • Good hand-drying facilities are provided
  • They undertake regular health screenings and surveillance of staff

Can I Claim Compensation for Dermatitis at Work?

If you’ve developed dermatitis at work because your employer hasn’t put suitable safety measures in place, you could claim compensation.

We understand how debilitating dermatitis can be, especially if it impacts on your ability to work. Our Industrial Disease Solicitors can help you get a settlement that covers:

  • The cost of any past treatment and/or ongoing treatment
  • Loss of earnings
  • Your pain and suffering
  • Any psychological symptoms you’ve suffered as a result e.g., depression or anxiety

How Much Compensation Am I Entitled To?

The amount of compensation that you could be entitled to will vary depending on a few factors, such as the severity of your dermatitis and the type of support you need. The compensation that you receive will be based on:

  • Loss of earnings
  • Medical expenses
  • Travel expenses
  • Care and support needs
  • Pain and suffering

Contact us today for a free claims assessment and we may be able to tell you how much we think you could be entitled to claim.

Can I Make a No Win, No Fee Claim?

We can deal with many of our cases on a No Win, No Fee basis. This means that you won’t have to pay any legal fees upfront and they are only due if your case is successful.

During your free claims assessment, we’ll discuss all the funding options for you, and we’ll advise which one we think is most suitable for you.

If we think that a No Win, No Fee agreement is the best way forward for you, we’ll explain how it works clearly. We are always upfront and transparent about our costs, so you know exactly where you stand.

Is There a Time Limit to Make a Claim?

Yes, there is usually a time limit of 3 years from when you developed your illness, or from when you became aware that it was caused as a result of negligence or lack of safety precautions at work. If you weren’t aware what caused your dermatitis straightaway, you will likely have 3 years from the ‘date of knowledge’.

If you’re unsure about the time limit or you have any concerns about claiming compensation, you can call our team today for a free claims assessment. We’ll be able to advise you whether or not your claim can be brought forward.

Can I Get an Advanced Payment?

In some cases, we can secure an interim payment. This is particularly helpful if you have immediate costs that need to be covered. If we think that this is possible, we’ll let you know during the process.

When possible, we always like to settle claims outside of Court and get our clients an interim payment to help them to be able to support themselves if they’re out of work as a result or pay for any medical treatments that they may need. Compensation claims can take anywhere between a few months to years to finalise, so an interim payment where possible is often achievable.

Will I Lose My Job If I Claim Against My Employers?

No, it’s illegal for your employer to force you out of your job as a result of you making a claim for compensation. If you wish to make a claim against your employer, any compensation that you receive will be paid out by their insurer.

There are many legal safeguards in place that will protect you from being dismissed unfairly. Your employer must have a justified reason for your dismissal, which is unlikely if it relates to your claim.

If you’re worried about your employer and your rights at work, we can help by discussing this with you. We’ll outline what rights you have and what your employer is legally required to do, so you know what to expect after the claim has been finalised.

two people sat at a table together while one fills out a form

How We Can Help

If you’re experiencing occupational dermatitis, get in touch for a free claims assessment and legal advice today with our Industrial Disease Solicitors.

We have helped many people like you, who have suffered from poor health or injuries due to lack of safety measures at work. We’ll listen to your case in detail before making a decision on whether or not your claim is likely to be successful. We’ll then outline all your legal options and advise you of the best route for you.

If you’re not sure on how you would like to proceed, we will explain the entire process in detail. We’ll only ever use plain English when discussing your claim with you, so you know exactly what to expect with no complicated legal jargon to navigate.

Our specialist solicitors are accredited, and nationally recognised experts and we’ll help you to get the right help and support for your case.

If you’re worried about funding your claim, we may be able to offer some support. Ask us about dealing with your case on a No Win, No Fee basis, which means that you won’t have anything to pay upfront.


Government Digital Service (2012). Dismissal: your rights. [online] GOV.UK. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/dismissal/what-to-do-if-youre-dismissed.

Nih.gov. (2009). Skin reactions related to hand hygiene. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK144008/.

Techasatian, L., Thaowandee, W., Chaiyarit, J., Uppala, R., Sitthikarnkha, P., Paibool, W., Charoenwat, B., Wongmast, P., Laoaroon, N., Suphakunpinyo, C., Kiatchoosakun, P. and Kosalaraksa, P. (2021). Hand Hygiene Habits and Prevalence of Hand Eczema During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of Primary Care & Community Health, 12, p.215013272110180. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/21501327211018013.

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