Occupational Health Study Warns Of Hazardous Chemical Exposure Risks

Occupational Dermatitis Becoming More Frequent Among Workers

22.09.2014

An Occupational Health study has highlighted the continuing risks faced by workers exposed to irritant chemicals in the workplace. 

Statistics from the report suggest that instances of occupational dermatitis are increasing and as the study notes, virtually all chemicals can cause skin damage, even though they may not be officially classified as hazardous. 

Irritants can be defined as any agent, physical or chemical capable of producing cell damage. Much depends on the level and duration of exposure although statistics also indicate that “wet work” or work where a person’s skin is frequently exposed to water, leads to an increased risk of an occupational skin disease. 

HSE guidance also suggests that cutting oils, degreasers, solvents and acids are the most typical irritants which lead to the development of skin symptoms. 

The use of these agents in the workplace requires employers to comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, which in turn provides for the need to undertake a chemical based risk assessment. 

However, the Occupational Health study has revealed that there are a significant number of reports of illness and injury relating to new and emerging agents that do not appear in “the approved list of biological agents”.

Expert Opinion
This study provides a helpful reminder to employers of the need to take all measures possible both to assess and reduce the risks of exposure to harmful substances in the workplace.

“The regulations are clear insofar as risk assessments should consider the work activity including all the substances hazardous to health arising from the work, created as a waste or by-product or released from work processes.

“Sadly, failures on the part of employers can often lead to the development of life changing symptoms and illnesses and we have represented many people who developed skin disease in the past as a result of their exposure to hazardous chemicals during their employment.

“The common indicators of a work related problem include circumstances in which symptoms improve away from work and relapse on return or where there is more than one person in the workplace who comes into contact with the same materials and who also suffers from similar skin symptoms.

“As such we would urge any employee who has noticed a rash on their hands or exposed skin to seek prompt medical advice.”
Alex Shorey, Solicitor