Contact dermatitis

Exposure to chemicals, along with frequent exposure to wet work is the main cause of contact dermatitis.

How are people harmed?

There are two types of dermatitis: irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis.

  • Irritant contact dermatitis can be caused by contact with chemicals, frequent wet working and, in some cases, working with mild shampoos.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis can be triggered by an allergic reaction to the chemicals in hairdressing products such as shampoos or colours. This can take months or years to surface, but once a worker becomes allergic, they are allergic for life. This affects not just their work life, but home life also.  

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk. Here are some examples:

  • Ensure workers wear disposable non-latex gloves, and change gloves regularly, making sure they don't contaminate their hands when taking them off.
  • Ensure workers always dry hands thoroughly with a soft cotton or paper towel.
  • Ensure workers moisturise after washing their hands, as well as at the start and end of each day.
  • Ensure workers check their skin regularly for early signs of dermatitis.  

You need to select the most effective controls that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.

Get your workers involved

  • Ensure your workers know how to make suggestions, ask questions or raise concerns.
  • Always ask your workers for input on identifying health and safety risks and how to eliminate or minimise them. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good decisions when they have been involved in the conversation. Your workers (including contractors and temps) are the eyes and ears of your business. They can help spot issues, and suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.
  • Always train your workers on what the key risks are and how to keep healthy and safe. 

Find out more about getting your workers involved

Where to go for more information

Contact Dermatitis | Dermnet New Zealand(external link)

Dermatitis | Health Navigator New Zealand(external link) 

What is work-related dermatitis? Health and Safety Executive UK(external link)