What is work dermatitis and can I claim compensation for it?
Eoin P. Campbell
Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor
Editor in Chief

Question:

I work in a hairdressing salon and have started to develop an itchy rash on my hands. My friend tells me that it is work dermatitis. What is work dermatitis and can I claim compensation for it?

Answer:

Work dermatitis is a blanket term which covers a number of occupational skin sensitivities. Work dermatitis can be caused by contact with irritants such as – in your case – shampoos and conditioners, or by working with substances to which you have developed an allergic reaction. If you are hypersensitive in other areas of your life – for example you suffer from hay fever in the summer – you might also have contact urticaria work dermatitis. Hairdressers, in particular, are prone to contracting some form of work dermatitis if they deal with ten or more clients a day and have more than two hours of unprotected contact with water.

Your first course of action should be to visit your doctor who will refer you to a dermatologist. The dermatologist will determine if you in fact have work dermatitis and, if so, explain to you what can be done to prevent it. You should seek medical attention sooner rather than later, as work dermatitis on the hands can quickly spread to other parts of the body. Once you are receiving treatment for the rash on your hand, you should speak as soon as possible with a solicitor to see if you have a claim for work dermatitis compensation.

Employers in professions in which there is an acknowledged risk of work dermatitis have additional responsibilities under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Chemical Agents) Regulations 2001 to provide their employees with a safe environment in which to work. The regulations cover many aspects of working with irritants that may cause work dermatitis including the provision of suitable gloves, creams and hand drying equipment. Employers should also ask potential employees if they have any history of dermatitis before employing them, provide information and training on the prevention of work dermatitis and monitor their staff for any early signs of work dermatitis.

If there is any element of these regulations which your employer has not adhered to, and you have suffered a work dermatitis injury as a result, you are entitled to make a claim for work dermatitis compensation. As mentioned above, it is in your best interests to discuss your work dermatitis compensation claim with a solicitor at the first opportunity to establish liability and for your solicitor to prepare the strongest work dermatitis claim on your behalf.

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