Eczema at Work
When people think of occupational dermatitis, they tend to think of a skin disease caused by exposure to hazardous chemicals.
However, there are a number of other skin problems that can be caused and exacerbated by work, including atopic eczema. Whether you have a pre-existing skin condition, are vulnerable to eczema or have developed contact dermatitis through your job, find out more about your legal rights at work and the steps to follow if your eczema is caused or worsened by your employment.
Different types of work-related dermatitis
Occupational dermatitis is an umbrella term for all skin problems, including eczema and psoriasis, that have been caused or aggravated by work. These can include:
Irritant contact dermatitis – caused when the skin comes into contact with a substance and damages cells, this condition can be temporary and clear up once exposure has ceased.
However, both chronic irritant contact dermatitis from prolonged exposure and irritant contact dermatitis caused by a single intense exposure tend to be permanent.
Allergic contact dermatitis – when a person becomes sensitised to a substance this can lead to permanent allergic dermatitis. Any subsequent, albeit limited, contact can cause a flare-up.
People with atopic eczema are more susceptible to irritant contact dermatitis than allergic contact dermatitis.
Whether you develop one kind of dermatitis or another can depend on the intensity of your exposure to a substance and your susceptibility to the condition. While some people develop dermatitis immediately, it can take a few years for others. Generally, it will manifest within a reasonably short period after the exposure.
Legal rights of employees
An employer is responsible for protecting their employees’ safety at work. They are also required to adhere and remain up to date with Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) in order to improve the general exposure to and management of occupational hazards.
The duties your employer has under COSHH include:
- Assess your exposure to hazardous substances at regular intervals or if any changes occur
- Prevent exposure and, where this is not possible, control exposure
- Maintain health and safety measures and keep them in good working order. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as gloves and overalls, should be tested and examined regularly
- Conduct a Health Surveillance at a minimum of 12-month intervals or even more regularly
- Train employees about the risks and provide adequate safety information
Valuable information for employers vulnerable to eczema
Employers and employees have mutual obligations in the workplace towards each other.
While employers are required to look after the health and safety of their workers, employees are also required to prevent risks to their own health and that of others. Staff members also have a duty to inform employers about any health problems or concerns that they may have at work.
If you suffer from a condition such as eczema, you should let your employer know so they can take positive steps to protect you from certain substances.
What if your employer ignores your occupational dermatitis?
If your employer does not adhere to their legal duty, even if you have told them about your skin problems, which causes or worsens your occupational dermatitis, you may be entitled to claim compensation for their negligence and any impact it has had on your health and finances.
Also, if you are forced to leave your employment, you may even be able to claim for constructive dismissal. This is provided that you have worked for a continuous 12-month period and have employment rights. If you’re unsure of your rights, legal advice should always first be sought in respect of individual cases.
Contact us for a free initial consultation
For free advice or to talk about the problems you’re having at work, call freephone 0800 612 3152 or email firstname.lastname@example.org requesting a call back at a time to suit you.