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Work-related contact dermatitis in the health services

Size of the problem

Nurses are reported to have an incidence of diagnosable work-related contact dermatitis which is higher than the average for all professions

What is it?

Contact dermatitis is the most common form of work-related skin disease in nurses and other healthcare professionals.

Dermatitis is an inflammatory condition of the skin caused by contact with outside agents which can result in irritation, redness, cracking and blistering.

Much less commonly reported skin problems such as contact urticaria may be seen in individuals who have latex allergies and are sensitive to natural latex rubber proteins.

Who is affected?

Those who are most affected are nurses, midwives, medical radiographers, nursing auxiliaries and assistants, medical practitioners (doctors, SHOs etc) and physiotherapists.

Other professionals in this sector that can suffer from work-related contact dermatitis are those who need to wash their hands regularly or those whose skin is frequently exposed to chemicals or rubber materials used in personal protective equipment.

Causes

Frequent exposure to soaps and cleaners, and ‘wet work’ (work involving wet hands or hand washing) account for over a quarter of all cases of work-related contact dermatitis. Other hazardous agents include rubber chemicals (eg carbamates, thirurams) which may be present in both natural rubber latex and synthetic rubber materials), bleach and sterilisers, preservatives, fragrances and aldehydes.

Reducing the risks of work-related dermatitis

Advice for employees

Advice for employers

To comply with the laws that apply, you need to carry out a risk assessment. Depending on the risks, put in place suitable measures to manage the risks or work-related contact dermatitis which may include:

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Updated 2016-01-29