Table 1 lists a number of well known substances and work activities which can cause occupational dermatitis. Substances which are skin irritants or sensitisers have the symbol Xi on the packaging (bag or container). The safety data sheet will also have valuable information on the health hazards associated with the substance and protective and preventive measures. Also some substances with the toxic symbol T or very toxic T+ can affect the skin, while others with the corrosive symbol C can cause burns.

The following safety and risk phrases indicate substances which are harmful to skin:

  • Avoid contact with skin (S24 )
  • Wear suitable gloves (S37)
  • Irritant to skin (R38)
  • May cause sensitisation by skin contact (R43)
  • Toxic in contact with skin (R24)
  • Very toxic in contact with skin (R27)
  • Causes burns (R34)
  • Causes severe burns (R35)

There are other substances which have the capacity to penetrate intact skin and be absorbed directly into the body without necessarily having any effect on the skin. These are identified with the notation Sk under the Code of Practice, 2007, Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Chemical Agents) Regulations 2001. Under this Code substances with the Sen notation apply only to respiratory sensitisers.

Table 1 Substance Groups and Work Activities
Substance Groups Work Activities
Wet cement Contact with wet cement in construction
Cutting oils Metal workshops
Solvents Dry cleaning, galvanising
Degreasers Cleaning metals
Alkali's Cleaning agents
Acids Crystal glass manufacture
Latex Health care, food preparation
Chromate's Contact with wet cement
Nickel Cheap jewellery manufacture, repair
Epoxy resins Electronics industry
Formaldehyde Furniture manufacture
Wood dust Saw milling, woodworking , furniture manufacture
Flour Handling grain at docks, milling, baking
Printing plate chemicals Printing fixing and developing
Adhesives Book binding, installing floor coverings