Occupational skin disease ranks as the second most common work-related disease presenting to Australian doctors. Most commonly seen in the form of occupational contact dermatitis, this type of work hazard is largely preventable and, at a cost to the economy of over $33 million dollars annually, prevention is in the best interests of all Australians.
While the thought of contact dermatitis doesn’t tend to strike fear into the hearts of most workers, the fact is that it can actually be extremely painful and difficult to heal. Resulting from skin exposure to chemicals, it can also be an indicator of potentially more serious health issues that can result from long term chemical exposure.
Workers in certain occupations are more likely to develop occupational skin disease – the main causes are thought to be such things as wet work, detergents, disinfectants, solvents, bases and alkalis, fuels, rubber accelerators and potassium dichromate in leather and cement. Prevention is always better than cure and so it is clear that relevant work health and safety training is essential for all workers who work with chemicals.
Automotive industry workers are a good example of employees commonly exposed to chemicals in their workplace. The use of solvents in cleaning engine parts is frequently responsible for causing contact dermatitis in addition to a number of other health issues such as headaches, breathing difficulties and impotence. Happily for automotive workers, cleaner (and greener) options are now available. The Ecosafe Washer, for example, uses a natural process called bioremediation to clean engine parts, reducing the use of harmful chemicals in many workshops.
Read the full Safe Work Australia media release: Occupational skin diseases found to cost over $33 million annually
Find out more about about the causes and implications of occupational skin disease in the following research reports published by Safe Work Australia: