Introduction

Many workers are exposed to substances that can adversely affect their skin condition, thus causing them ill health due to dermatitis or a worsening of pre-existing conditions e.g. eczema. Therefore health surveillance for such substances is a legal requirement under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. Skin surveillance should be carried out on a regular basis in partnership with the provision of information, instruction and training.

  • The 2006/07 Self-reported Work-related Illness survey estimated that there were 29 000 people with "skin problems" which they believed to be work-related.
  • There were over 3500 cases of occupational skin disease in 2006 reported by dermatologists and occupational physicians reporting in the THOR (EPIDERM and OPRA) network.
  • Of these, 2395 (68%) were contact dermatitis and 760 (21%) – most of the remainder – were skin cancers.

Source: Health & Safety Executive 2007

Who is at Risk?

Those working within certain occupations are more at risk from occupational skin problems, as they work with certain substances are that known to cause occupational dermatitis. These include:

  • Those working with mineral and soluble oils & mists
  • Bakery workers
  • Beauticians & hairdressers
  • Healthcare workers
  • Those working with epoxy resins & adhesives and other solvents
  • Printing sector workers
  • Those working with degreasers
  • Gardeners, horticulturalists and arbourists
  • Construction workers
  • Cleaners
  • Those with prolonged or frequent contact with water
  • Chemical plant operatives
  • Those working with fuel oils, paraffin, kerosene
  • Those working with or using latex

Additionally, people with the following pre-existing conditions may have a slightly higher risk of developing an occupational skin condition:

  • Eczema
  • Asthma
  • Hay fever
  • Food allergy to milk, eggs or citrus
  • Stress
  • Family history of allergies, eczema & dermatitis

When assessing the risks posed within a workplace, material safety data sheets supplied with products should be checked for the following risk phrases:

  • R38 Irritating to skin
  • R43 May cause sensitisation by skin contact
  • R42/43 ‘May cause sensitisation by inhalation and skin contact’

What's Involved?

Skin surveillance can be carried out at your own premises, provided that there is a quiet room made available.

Each personal appointment takes between 10 and 15 minutes. If other forms of health surveillance are additionally required for each employee, the time taken will obviously increase.

A questionnaire is provided by us prior to attendance on site and the employee is given this preferably the day before they attend. They complete the questionnaire and bring it with them to their appointment. The employee will have their hands, forearms and face checked and a work related history including exposure and PPE used taken.

Next, the employee will have their results explained to them. If referral is required due to abnormal results they will be advised to see their own General Practitioner.

The final stage involves collating all the results by job title or department and supplying the company with anonymous results.

All Safe OH & S Ltd can also offer site based skin surveillance training to nominated responsible people e.g. first aiders or supervisors to allow in-house skin surveillance, provided that this is acceptable to employees. Please contact us for further details.

 

All Safe OH & S can offer site based statutory health surveillance including:

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