Skin Conservation

Skin Conservation

Work-related skin disease can affect people in a wide range of occupations. It can be caused or exacerbated through exposure to a physical, chemical or biological agent, mechanical force, or by wearing gloves for too long, resulting in excessive sweating and hyperhydration.

Occupational skin disease is usually caused by contact and it follows that, where there is no contact, there is no contact skin disease. Based on this premise, occupational skin disease is therefore preventable and is subject to the same risk management controls as other health and safety risks.

Health and Safety Executive list of causative agents for contact dermatitis and occupations at risk is given below:

Example occupations Examples of irritants  Examples of sensitisers 
Agricultural workers Artificial fertilisers, cleaning products, diesel, disinfectants, dust including soil and food products, gasoline, oils, pesticides, plants, solvents, wet-work. Animal feeds, barley, cement, fungicides, germicidal products, oats; plants; pesticides, veterinary medications, wood dust, preservatives, wool.
Bakers Acids; detergents; wet-work. Ammonium persulphate, benzoyl peroxide, dyes, essential oils, enzymes, flavours; flour, some fruits.
Bartenders Detergents, disinfectants, scale- removers,wet-work. Formaldehyde, some fruits.
Beauticians (Nails) Dusts, acetone, disinfectants. Ethylmethacrylate, methylmethacrylate.
Butchers and abattoir workers Acids and alkalis, detergents, waste products, wet-work. Animal proteins, formaldehyde, latex rubber protein, nickel, sawdust.
Cabinet makers and carpenters Detergents, glues, solvents, thinners, wood dust, wood preservatives. Colophony, dyes, fungicides, glues, turpentine, varnishes, wood dust.
Carpet layers Adhesives, dusts. Adhesives, mites, fungus, animal waste.
Cleaners Detergents, other cleaning products, solvents, wet-work. Formaldehyde, germicidal agents.
Construction workers Cement, dusts, solvents, sand, wet-work, building materials. Cement, chromium, chromium compounds, cobalt, epoxy resins, nickel, resins, thiuram in gloves, wood dust.
Cooks and caterers Acids and alkalis, bleaching agents, detergents, vegetable juices, wet-work.  Flavours (some types), formaldehyde, garlic, sodium metabisulphite, spices (some).
Dentists and dental technicians Detergents, wet-work. Dental impression material, disinfectants, eugenol, local anaesthetics (some), mercury, methacrylates, latex rubber free protein.
Doctors, nurses and others Disinfectants, detergents, wet-work. Latex gloves, some anaesthetics, antibiotics and antiseptics, phenothiazines, formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, liquid chloroxylenol.
Electricians Fibre glass, soldering fluxes. Epoxy resins, rubber, isocyanates, soldering fluxes, dusts.
Floor-layers Solvents. Cement; epoxy resins; house mites; wood; wood dust.
Florists and gardeners Compost, fertilisers, pesticides, wet-work, soil, preservatives. Plants, pesticides, insecticides.
Foundry workers Dust, sand. Chromium, cobalt, nickel, phenol/urea-formaldehyde resins.
Hairdressers Bleaching agents, dyes, permanent wave solutions, shampoos, wet-work. Dyes, nickel, persulphates, perfumes, latex rubber protein, amine based chemicals, including parphenylene diamine (ppd).
Hospital and care home workers Detergents, disinfectants, wet-work. Latex rubber protein, medicines.
Metal workers Cutting oils /fluids, solvents, metal shavings/dusts. Additives/preservatives in cutting fluids, chromium, nickel.
Mechanics Cleaners, diesel, gasoline, greases, oils, solvents. Chromium, epoxy resin, nickel.
Motor vehicle repairers Aggressive hand cleaning products, fuels, oils, paints, solvents. Chromium, cobalt, epoxy resins, nickel.
Painters Aggressive hand cleaners, solvents, thinners, wallpaper adhesives including antibacterial/mould agents. Turpentine, thinners, chromium, formaldehyde, epoxy products, polyester resins.
Photographic industry workers Solvents, wet-work. Chromium, colour developers, para-aminophenol, formaldehyde, hydroquinone; sodium metabisulphite.
Printers Solvents. Colophony, formaldehyde, metals in resins/inks, resins and hardeners, turpentine.
Rubber products workers Solvents, talc, uncured rubber, zinc stearate. Colophony, dyes, rubber conditioning chemicals, different amines and epoxy resins.
Veterinarians Disinfectants, wet-work. Some anaesthetics, antibiotics and antiseptics, chloroxylenol, formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, latex

Examples of causes of contact urticaria and occupations in which they occur

Agents Type of workers
Foods, spices, herbs Cooks, food preparation workers, other kitchen workers
Food additives, e.g: Cinamic acid, benzaldehyde, benzoic acid, albumin Cooks, food preparation workers, other kitchen workers, bakers and millers
Animal hair Animal husbandry worker, veterinarians and nurses, laboratory workers
Latex proteins Health care workers, animal husbandry workers, veterinarians, laboratory workers
Topical drugs Health care workers, pharmaceutical workers
Disinfectants Hairdressers, cleaners, kitchen staff
Resins Construction workers, resin manufacturing, printers, nail technicians
Chemicals used in rubber production Rubber processing workers

Examples of agents that cause skin cancer and occupations where they occur

Agents Type of work
UV rays from the sun Outdoor work
Coal tar and derivatives Coal tar handling, coal gasification, coal tar distillation
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) Petroleum refining, coal tar distillation
Ionising radiation Radiation-related work
Arsenic Metal ore handling and smelting, pesticide manufacturing
Coke Coke processing
Soot Chimney cleaning

Skin Conservation Scheme

Skin conservation is a method of carefully managing the risk of skin problems through:

Is Health Surveillance a legal requirement?

Skin surveillance is required under Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations or the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations where:

It should relate to the type and extent of exposure and be based on available knowledge of risks to health. Examples of where health surveillance is appropriate under the criteria of Regulation 11(2)(b) are:

Skin health surveillance is required where there is residual risk to health following the implementation of your safe system of work. Risk assessments should indicate the level of your risk and the need for additional control measures and personal protective equipment (PPE).

You may have risk of occupational skin disease if:



Warning signs and H Statements which identify skin hazards:

H312: Harmful in contact with skin

H315: Causes skin irritation

H317: may cause an allergic skin reaction

H314: Causes severe skin burns and eye damage

H310: Fatal in contact with skin

H311: Toxic in contact with skin

EUH066: Repeated exposure may cause skin dryness and cracking

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Published date: 19th February 2018

Last revision: 22nd July 2019

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