Skin diseases

Identifying ‘abnormal’ skin can be straightforward but identifying the cause is more complex. It is helpful for health and safety and medical professionals to work together to establish whether the condition is work related.

The majority of work-related skin diseases are dermatitis. So, the first step is to establish whether the skin problem is dermatitis. This can be quite challenging for medical professionals since the appearance of both acute and chronic dermatitis can vary and it can be presented to the doctor at different stages. Also, there are some common skin conditions, which are confused with dermatitis: psoriasis, pustulosis of the palms and soles, tinea, scabies, lichen planus.

If the condition is dermatitis, the next question is whether it is constitutional or if it arises from contact with an external agent, ie contact dermatitis. An important clue is the site of the area affected. If it is the hands, contact dermatitis should always be suspected.

The final question is whether the ‘contact’ arises from work or from home. Medical practitioners will take a range of factors into consideration when making a diagnosis, including the site and spread of rash, history of onset, work done by the patient, hobbies and medications.

Some helpful clues to recognise a work-related cause are:

  • if it is primarily on the hands and face
  • if the condition improves away from work and relapses on return
  • if more than one person affected in same work area or handling same materials

Read more on skin diseases