Health Topics - Skin

What are the risks to your skin?

Damage to skin can cause serious problems. These can arise from:

  • cracks and cuts
  • sunburn
  • cement burns
  • dermatitis or psoriasis
  • skin cancer

If you are an employer you have a duty under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) 2002 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to prevent your employees from coming into contact with substances hazardous to health which cause dermatitis.


Dermatitis is caused be exposure to irritants such as:

  • concrete
  • oils
  • solvents
  • plaster
  • insulation
  • paint
  • machinery dust
  • infected water
  • infected waste

Any parts of your body can be affected by dermatitis - hands, arms, face, chest, neck, legs.

Sunburn and skin cancer

  • too much sunlight is harmful to your skin - a tan is a sign that your skin has been damaged by ultraviolet rays (UV)
  • skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the UK - most are caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation

What are the warning signs?

  • skin is dry, red, sore and sometimes itchy
  • this may start to spread to other parts of the body
  • skin may become brittle and crack
  • the crack gets deeper and starts to bleed - this means that the dust, chemicals and bacteria can get in and cause further infection

What should you do?

  • protect your skin by wearing gloves and other protective clothing, eg. overalls
  • replace any damaged personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • keep yourself, your PPE and your workplace as clean as possible
  • keep any cuts or abrasions on your skin covered with waterproof dressings
  • use moisturising skin creams where available - they are cheap and make a difference

As an employer if it is not reasonably practicable to prevent worker exposure to these substances, the law says you must do what you can to control that exposure

  • set up a system of skin checks for workers. In the first instance you will probably need an occupational health nurse or doctor to train somebody to carry out skin inspections and to advise them on how often they should carry them out
  • anyone with apparent skin problems should be referred to their GP or the works occupational health nurse or doctor if there is one

For further Guidance and Free Leaflets click here.

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