Contact Dermatitis in the Workplace

Keeping workers healthy and safe is Tang & Company’s goal. A health condition not to overlook at the workplace is contact dermatitis—an inflammation of the skin caused by an allergy or irritation from a substance that comes into direct contact with the skin.  

Contact dermatitis can be due to either occupational (workplace) or non-occupational exposures. At the workplace, contact dermatitis accounts for 90-95% of all cases of Occupational Skin Diseases (OSD) in the United States. Contact dermatitis is one of the most common types of occupational illnesses, and according to the Official Disability Guidelines (ODG) by MCG Health, the typical total cost per claim is $2,025. 

The prevalence of contact dermatitis makes sense, considering the skin is the largest organ in the human body. Common symptoms of dermatitis to watch out for include:  

  • Itching 
  • Pain  
  • Redness  
  • Swelling  
  • The formation of small blisters or wheals on the skin  
  • Dry, flaking, scaly skin that may develop cracks  

Keep in mind that symptoms can result from a single high exposure or repeated and prolonged low exposure to a substance.   

While the prevalence of contact dermatitis in the general population is not known, agents causing irritation and allergic reactions of the skin can be found both at the workplace and outside of it. 

Common irritants at the workplace include water and wet work, cleansers, detergents, oils, and solvents. Common allergic agents at the workplace are latex, soap, and cleansers. In the general population, other allergens include metals (nickel, chromium, and gold), fragrance-related chemicals, hair dyes, make-up, topical antibiotics, preservatives, glues, and plastics.  

For the health and safety of your workforce, contact dermatitis should be evaluated by a medical professional with expertise in occupational health, treated promptly, and the causative agent identified for prompt cessation of exposure.  

Quick medical assessment and appropriate treatment for the causative agent, whether occupational or non-occupational, allows for successful first aid management. At workplaces, this focused approach enables preventive measures to be taken to avoid the irritant or allergen from causing complications that can result in the employee requiring medical treatment or disability, lost workdays, and worker’s compensation claims.  

Tang & Company is here to help with a comprehensive range of occupational healthcare services including, timely telephonic nurse triage. Visit www.tangandcompany.com to learn more.  

Additional Resources