What is dermatitis?
Dermatitis is a common skin irritation and essentially means inflammation of the skin. Dermatitis is not contagious, so it cannot spread from one person to another. There are different types of dermatitis. The most common types of dermatitis are atopic dermatitis (eczema) and contact dermatitis.
General symptoms of dermatitis:
- Crusting/scaling skin
- Dry skin
- Red rashes and bumps
Causes of dermatitis
- Genetics – if others in your family have dermatitis, it is likely you will have it.
- Environment – the environment can make your immune system change the skin’s protective barrier. E.g., exposure to tobacco smoke, certain pollutants.
- Exposure – exposure to certain chemicals and other irritants can cause dermatitis.
What is occupational dermatitis?
Occupational dermatitis is dermatitis that occurs as a result of your workplace or work-related activity. Some occupations are more at risk of occupation dermatitis. For example, people who work in environments involving contact with chemicals, cleaning material and certain soaps are more likely to develop occupational dermatitis. People who work at chemical factories, biological plants, hospitals and beauty salons are at a high of risk of developing the skin condition.
Dermatitis is often only found on the hands as it is the most exposed part of your body which is most likely to be in contact with substances triggering skin reactions. However, this is not always the case. For example, we handled a case where a client was working in a factory in which he cleans material using hydrochloric acid. In this case, the client’s abdomen and legs were also blistering and sore.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, states that employers have a legal duty of care to their employees. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002 states that employers are required to take steps to prevent or minimise workers’ exposure to hazardous substances.
Employers can do this by:
- Using alternative products that are non-toxic.
- Providing workers with appropriate protective equipment such as masks and gloves.
- Giving workers sufficient training concerning how to handle hazardous substances and materials.
- Carrying out risk assessments.
The risk assessments are essential as they can help to protect you from any danger and prevent you from developing dermatitis based on your workplace working conditions.
If the employer fails to comply with the legal requirement and consequently, you suffer from occupational dermatitis; you can file a claim against your employer for negligence.
Compensation depends on the severity of the injury. In severe cases, compensation can range from £12,900 to £18,020. Where dermatitis has been affecting both hands for a long time but treatment may be working or protective gloves help with certain tasks, compensation could range from £8,110 to £10,710. Dermatitis that has caused some irritation on both hands but will get better with treatment over a few months could see a compensation settlement of around £1,600 to £3,710.
What you need to do
Initially, you need to attend an appointment with a dermatologist. The dermatologist can assess your injuries and symptoms and inform you whether it is dermatitis. Also, keep records or notes of instances you think are important such as if you repeatedly informed you employer of your injury.