Occupational dermatitis

Dermatitis (or eczema) is a skin disorder caused by contact with a substance that irritates the skin or causes an allergic reaction. Where it is caused by contact with a substance at work it is called occupational dermatitis.

In some cases contact with a substance at work can make a person's dermatitis worse. This is called work related dermatitis.


Dermatitis symptoms vary according to the type of contact. The following are most common:

  • Redness
  • Scaling/flaking
  • Blistering
  • Weeping
  • Cracking
  • Swelling

Symptoms can develop on any area of the body, but the hands and face are most often affected. The symptoms can occur immediately on contact or over a much longer period of exposure.


Certain types of work are known to carry a higher risk of irritant and allergic contact dermatitis as set out in the table below:





  • Wet work
  • Soaps and cleaners


  • Wet work
  • Shampoos, hair dyes and bleaches

Health services

  • Wet work
  • Soaps and cleaners
  • Chemicals present in rubber latex and synthetic rubber
  • Bleach, sterilisers, preservatives, fragrances and aldehydes


  • Wet work
  • Chemicals present in rubber latex and synthetic rubber


  • Wash-up solutions
  • Inks and cleaning solvents
  • UV varnishes, developers, thinners and hand cleansers

Metal machining

  • Metal working fluids - cutting oils  and coolants

Motor vehicle

  • Used engine oil
  • Cleaners and degreasers
  • Hand sanding
  • Two-part adhesives, body fillers and foam fillers
  • Wet sanding


  • Liquid solvents
  • Construction dust
  • Cement

Electronics and assembly industries

  • Soldering fluxes
  • Hot melt glues
  • Surface coatings
  • Metal working fluids



In addition to the above those who work with the nickel and its compounds (nickel/copper and nickel/chromium) are at risk of allergic contact dermatitis. Contact may occur in the manufacture of stainless steel, coins, magnets, chemical and food process equipment and generally in the chemical, electroplating and aerospace industries;

How to make a claim

Your employer has a duty to provide you with a safe system of work. This includes the prevention of occupational dermatitis by removing or reducing exposure to its causes and where this is not possible, by effective control measures. If your employer has failed to do so one of our specialist lawyers can help you make a claim and ensure you obtain the maximum compensation you deserve. 

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