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Industrial Disease

Occupational Dermatitis Claims

Occupational dermatitis is irritation and/or inflammation of the skin due to contact with substances commonly found in working environments. 

There are several different types of dermatitis, but in the workplace the main type is contact dermatitis, which is triggered when the skin is exposed to a hazardous substance or reacts to contact with a material which is usually not an irritant in other settings. 

Contact dermatitis can be caused by an allergic reaction, in which case even a single exposure to an allergenic material can be enough to bring on painful symptoms. 

Alternatively, it can happen due to prolonged exposure to low-level irritants, including common household powders and liquids. In some circumstances, it can even occur when the irritant does not make direct contact with the skin.

If you would like to make an occupational dermatitis claim, contact our team of industrial disease solicitors today on 0161 979 0803.

Causes of Workplace Dermatitis 

Workplace dermatitis is typically caused by exposure to a material which irritates and inflames the skin. Most commonly, this is a liquid or powder, as it is easier for residues of these to transfer and remain on the skin. 

Examples of the types of substances that can trigger Contact Dermatitis include: 

  • Powders: Flour, cement dust etc.
  • Solvents: Glue, paint etc.
  • Fluids: Bleach, other hazardous liquids. 

Prolonged exposure can increase the risk of developing irritant dermatitis, which is why it is important to wear protective clothing when handling low-level irritants regularly for long periods of time. 

More highly irritant substances can trigger an immediate effect, while allergens can bring on an allergic dermatitis attack too. This makes wearing the correct personal protective equipment essential even when working with reactive substances for a short period of time. 

Symptoms of Occupational Dermatitis 

Contact dermatitis can be much more than just an annoyance. The most common symptoms include hard-to-relieve itching alongside a red, bumpy rash on the skin. 

In medium to severe cases, these symptoms can quickly progress, becoming extremely uncomfortable and painful, posing a risk to the long-term health of your skin: 

  • Redness, swelling and blisters.
  • Itching, pain, discomfort at night.
  • Broken skin - dry, flaking and/or weeping.

Due to the blistering of the skin and the effects of trying to scratch the itch to relieve the discomfort, even mild cases of contact dermatitis can result in permanent scarring. 

Because of this, it is important to relieve the symptoms using less-damaging methods - although it is of course ideal to prevent the condition from developing in the first place by using appropriate workplace clothing and protective equipment. 

Facts about Occupational Dermatitis 

A few more things you should know about workplace dermatitis: 

  • The HSE estimate around 84,000 people have dermatitis that was either brought on or worsened by their work.
  • Contact dermatitis is most common on the hands, face and neck. It can develop anywhere on the skin, but these are the most often exposed areas.
  • Frequent washing can remove irritant residues - but excessive exposure to water can also be a trigger for contact dermatitis over time. 

This last point means that even if your employer provides you with washing facilities and encourages you to clean your hands and face regularly throughout the day, you could still develop symptoms due to the water itself or any soap you use during washing. 

In fact, the NHS says contact with water, soaps and detergents is among the most common causes of contact dermatitis - so don't assume washing will automatically reduce your risk of developing symptoms. 

Treatments for Contact Dermatitis 

The best way to treat contact dermatitis is to remove contact with the irritant. Where this is a substance that is frequently or always present in the individual's workplace, this can be very difficult to achieve. 

Alternative treatments for dermatitis include emollients and barrier creams designed to protect the inflamed skin and attempt to stop it from drying out. Again, these can be difficult to use throughout the working day, especially if your employer asks you to wash the affected area frequently. 

In severe cases, your GP or a skin specialist may prescribe steroids in the form of oral tablets or topical creams and ointments which aim to relieve the symptoms directly. 

Negative Impacts of Occupational Dermatitis 

Workplace dermatitis can be extremely distressing. It leads to unsightly red, lumpy rashes on affected areas, often including the face and hands where it is difficult to hide. 

The visible symptoms can persist for weeks or even months, especially if you are unable to prevent continuing exposure to the irritant which caused the symptoms to begin in the first place. 

In addition, the rashes can be itchy and painful. You may feel compelled to scratch them - similar to an attack of chicken pox - but this can break the skin, worsen the pain and even leave permanent scarring. 

The discomfort can persist right around the clock and is often more noticeable at night when there are fewer distractions. This can leave you with difficulty sleeping and all the related issues arising from a lack of adequate rest. 

How Pabla Can Help 

If you have developed dermatitis as a result of exposure to an irritant at work, it may be possible to claim compensation from your employer. 

This is especially true if processes were put in place which exposed you unnecessarily, and if adequate personal protective equipment was not provided to mitigate this exposure. 

Remember, regular washing is itself a cause of contact dermatitis due to ongoing exposure to water and/or soaps - so a policy of frequent hand-washing is not necessarily a defence. 

Pabla will assign a dedicated solicitor to your case with knowledge and experience in this area, in order to build the strongest possible claim. 

We will collect all of the necessary information to support this claim, but we also understand that you have a day-to-day life to live, and we will minimise the impact of your claim so it does not take up any more of your time than necessary. 

Our expertise means in cases where employer fault can be shown, there is a very good chance of achieving a compensation payout, and we will always advise you on how strong we think your case is throughout the process. 

To discuss your claim or to start proceedings, call Pabla & Pabla Solicitors today on 0161 979 0803.

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