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Managing the risks from skin exposure

Once a skin contamination problem has been identified, possible remedies need to be considered to prevent ill health. Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended) (COSHH), employers have to make sure that employees’ exposure to hazardous materials by skin contact and absorption through the skin is either prevented or, where this is not reasonably practicable, adequately controlled.

The following advice should help you to develop good control practice and there is also basic, straightforward information on the causes of skin disease and advice on how to identify the symptoms.

Prevent exposure by elimination or substitution

The first consideration should be to prevent exposure, either through:

Design and operate processes to minimise emission and transmission

If elimination or substitution is impractical then the next most effective way of preventing skin disease is to design and operate processes to avoid contact in the first place. Here are some of the options:

Where adequate control of exposure cannot be achieved by other means, provide suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) in combination with other control measures.

Adequate facilities for washing and good skin care

Skin care plays an important role in preventing skin disease. Employers should:

Health surveillance

More detailed information can be found on our health surveillance for skin diseases page

Information, instruction and training

Human behaviour is critical in maintaining the effectiveness of control measures. Employers must therefore inform, instruct and train workers about the risks from skin exposure and the steps they need to take to protect themselves. This includes instruction in the correct use of any PPE provided and in good skin care regimes.

A range of training resources are available, including guides, posters, toolbox talks and other tools.

Updated 2014-09-02