Occupational Health ServiceSkin

Skin is exposed to a variety of substances and environments which can aggravate it. The skin is a complex structure. Work related skin disease can be a common health problem but if the signs and symptoms are detected early enough and steps are taken to reduce workers’ exposure to the substances responsible the disease may be reduced or cured. As well as having many essential functions, the skin is the body’s first line of defence against physical, thermal, chemical and microbiological hazards. Prolonged exposure to some substances, even hot water, can challenge the skin’s protective mechanism.

Dermatitis (also known as eczema) is by far the most common work related skin problem, but urticaria and skin cancer may also occur. If you develop a work-related skin disease, it could cause real suffering which could result in sickness absence and may be so bad that the sufferer may be unable to carry on at work. The APC approach (avoid, protect, check) can reduce the chances of suffering painful and sometimes debilitating skin conditions.

Information sheets

Health questionnaire

The Skin Health Questionnaire is currently being updated - please contact occupationalhealth@strath.ac.uk for the latest version.

Skin protection

Work-related skin diseases can affect people in a wide range of occupations. The Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) Approach of APC (avoid, protect, check) can reduce the chances of suffering painful and sometimes debilitating skin conditions.

The simplest way to protect the skin from harm is to avoid exposure to the hazard but this may not be practical so protection is the next step.

  • Work at a safe working distance to prevent exposure and follow the safe systems of work in the risk assessments.
  • Use the control measures put in place to reduce the risk of harm to your skin such as personal protective equipment (PPE) - gloves and overalls to prevent skin contamination.
  • Recognise the early signs and symptoms of any skin problems.
  • Report any symptoms to your line manager and the Occupational Health Service as early as possible. If you think you have a work-related skin problem advise Occupational Health Service and they will advise you about getting the right treatment.
  • Attend the GP if you believe that you have a skin problem. Tell your GP what you do as part of your course work and that you think it might be caused by or made worse by your work.

Provide suitable PPE - Gloves.

Take good care of your skin by paying particular attention to good hand hygiene techniques, appropriate use of gloves and use of conditioning (moisturising) after work creams. 

Pre-work creams

Pre-work creams can help with cleaning substances from the skin and reduce the need for powerful skin cleansers. Pre-work creams are not true ‘barrier’ creams as chemicals will always work their way through the cream to the skin. They do not replace gloves. There are a variety of creams available depending on hazards and working conditions by limiting the contact between the two and facilitate subsequent cleansing. This allows use of the mildest possible cleansers. 


Use the mildest possible cleanser. A cleanser with a scrubbing agent works by abrasion which can damage the skin and should be used sparingly. 

Take special care in hand washing. Wash your hands in lukewarm water if you have dermatitis. Make sure that you rinse your hands carefully to remove all traces of soaps and detergents, and dry them thoroughly, paying particular attention to the spaces between your fingers. 

Soap, detergents and water as well as other substances such as oils, and resins can collect under rings and make it difficult to have clean dry skin. It is best to avoid wearing finger rings at work. Wear only a plain wedding ring if you have to wear a ring at all, and take extra care to rinse and dry beneath it. 

After work creams which condition/moisturise should be used frequently throughout the day, to keep the skin well hydrated and which will prevent the skin from drying. Apply creams carefully and ensure that you include the spaces between your fingers. These creams vary from very greasy (emollient) used for moderate to severe dryness to less greasy (cream) used for mild dryness. Conditioning creams should be non-perfumed. Some people may become sensitised to an ingredient with creams such as lanolin which is a mild sensitiser. Individuals with skin allergies should check the ingredients of the creams used and seek advice from Occupational Health where necessary. 

General skin care advice

  • Cover cuts and abrasions with a waterproof dressing
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke in  work areas
  • Apply the same standards of good skin care and appropriate use of gloves away from work
  • Welfare facilities: your workplace should have adequate washing facilities away from areas used to prepare and eat food

Check hands regularly for the first signs of itchy, dry or red skin. Regular skin checks will help spot the early signs of skin problems.