UK safety expert Arco warns dermatitis cases could be on the increase, with employees vulnerable to a life-changing condition. With all of us being encouraged to wash and sanitise our hands more frequently, PPE being worn for longer periods and some employees reluctant to report symptoms unnecessarily, Arco is raising awareness of the dangers of dermatitis in a nationwide campaign.
Occupational skin conditions costs Britain 268,000 working days a year. The most common type, occupational dermatitis, is an inflammation of the skin caused by external agents such as chemicals and hazardous substances, biological agents, sensitisers or allergens which change the natural balance of the skin or damage its structure. Dermatitis doesn’t just affect workers’ hands but can occur anywhere on the body, including the face as a result of wearing PPE for longer periods.
Occupational dermatitis can seriously affect the well-being, quality of life and performance of employees. Absence from work, reduced pay, lower morale and self-esteem and even an unintended change in career can result. Employers, meanwhile, run the risk of bad publicity, reduced productivity, rising costs due to sickness days, increased costs for training and recruitment and, in a worst-case scenario, potential compensation claims.
With more than 1 in 10 workers suffering from the disease, for a 250 strong company, that’s 25 members of staff. The average cost to treat an unreported hand health problem is £2,000. In addition, each reported case of dermatitis costs an employer £6,000 on average, excluding compensation, fines and legal fees. For 25 employees, this total cost equates to £200,000. While the costs involved with increased claims and insurance are worrying, the highest costs are incurred from potential fines and Health & Safety Executive (HSE) fees for intervention. The HSE now charges £157 per hour to investigate an incident on site and the average cost of a health and safety related prosecution in 2018/19 was £150,000 per conviction.
Darren Williamson, Arco Product & Procurement Manager – Cleaning & Hygiene, said: “Too often a lack of employee complaints means employers assume dermatitis is a minor risk. But the truth in the silence is workers can feel embarrassed, have a lack of understanding about the condition or fear they could lose their jobs. Worse still, underreporting means existing statistics merely represent the tip of the iceberg. We must raise awareness of the help available before employees and employers end up paying the ultimate price.”
With the right skincare programme in place, the risks of dermatitis can be reduced or eliminated. Arco skincare experts offer a specialist onsite assessment and skin analysis programme and then help build bespoke programmes to reduce symptoms and develop training and awareness programmes to help change behaviour and ensure compliance.
For more information on skincare assessments, PPE products and training from the Arco team, visit https://campaigns.arco.co.uk/preventing-dermatitis-in-the-workplace/
 The Health & Occupation Research Network (THOR) GP Scheme 2011-2013)
 EPIDERM/HSE: Work Related Skin Disease in Great Britain 2014
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