Has Increased Handwashing at Work Caused Your Dermatitis?

Posted on: 1 min read
Kirstie Bork

Associate Solicitor-Advocate, Industrial Disease

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With Covid-19 making us more hygiene conscious than ever before, many of us have been 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.

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 for 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 PPE for long periods of time also contributed towards drier skin and eczema.

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

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

FAQs about 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 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.

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 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.

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

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 chronic 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 ongoing treatment you need
  • Loss of earnings
  • Your pain and suffering
  • Any psychological symptoms you’ve suffered as a result e.g. depression or anxiety

Get in touch for a free claims assessment and legal advice today. Ask us about dealing with your case on a No Win, No Fee basis.

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