Occupational dermatitis is one of the most widespread causes of ill health and affects workers in many industry sectors, including food processing, catering and healthcare.

Nationally, across all industries, an estimated 84,000 people have dermatitis caused or made worse by their work. The food and catering industries account for about 10% of this figure.

What does it look like?

If you look at this picture of skin that has dermatitis, you could see one or all of these signs:

  • Redness
  • Scaling/flaking
  • Blistering
  • Weeping
  • Cracking
  • Swelling

Some Facts about Occupational Dermatitis

According to the the Health & Safety Executive occupational dermatitis accounts for:

  • 10% of compensation cases under the Department of Work and Pensions Industrial Injuries Scheme, and
  • 13% of cases of occupational diseases reported to HSE under RIDDOR

Causes of dermatitis

Water, soaps and detergents

In the catering and food occupations, the prolonged contact with water, soaps and detergents causes about 55% of dermatitis cases. This results in over 200 cases per year being reported by occupational physicians and dermatologists. Many additional cases will be seen by other medical professionals. There has been an increase in reporting from the Health Care sectors whereby more hand washing is taking place in between patient contact. Contact Dermatitis is a reportable occupational disease under RIDDOR.


About 40% of dermatitis cases in the industry are caused by contact with foods. A wide variety of foods have been shown to cause dermatitis including sugar, flour/dough, fruits (especially citrus fruits), vegetables, spices, fish and meats.

Other causes

Contact dermatitis can also be caused by contact with coins, nitrile, rubber and latex gloves, chemicals and cleaners and some soaps and alcohol-based hand sanitisers.

Managing prevention

Occupational dermatitis can be prevented by following a few simple precautions. Dermatitis is more easily prevented than cured and the costs of prevention are much less than those of a cure.

Useful links

Contact dermatitis – NHS (

The HSE facts released in 2019

Work-related skin disease in Great Britain 2019 (

For workers diagnosed with Eczema

Advice on coronavirus (Covid-19) for people with eczema | National Eczema Society

We have included the FREE download PDF file form the HSE titled Skin Dermatitis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© Remote First Aid and Pre-Hospital Training Ltd (Remote First Aid) Registered in Wales, Company Number: 12641339 | DUNS Number 225944338 | ICO ZA936172