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Skin Disorders a Common Workplace Injury

One of the leading injury claims in the work place result from occupational skin disorders (OSD). These disorders, also known as occupational dermatitis, occur when a worker’s skin becomes irritated or is made worse due to contact with substances related to their job. In 2006, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded 41,400 reports of work-related skin disorders, with 10-15% of overall injuries on-the-job being attributable to OSD. While certain industries, such as chemical, medical and construction, are more prone to occupational skin disorders, reports of injuries may be found in practically every industry. It helps, therefore, for all workers to be aware of the more common skin disorders that may occur while on-the-job.

The most common occupational skin disorder in the workplace is contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis occurs when a workers skin comes into contact with a substance that causes irritation like redness, itchiness, pain or hot patches, and/or swelling. In some cases, initial irritation can lead to more severe reactions like rash, broken skin or blisters, eczema, psoriasis, and even infection or scarring. Contact dermatitis makes up approximately 90% of OSD worker compensation claims.

Contact dermatitis can be further broken down into two types: Irritant and Allergic. Irritant Dermatitis, which makes up about 80% of all contact dermatitis claims, occurs when the skin comes into direct contact with an irritating substance. Such irritants can be substances as mild as water, to heavy irritants like acidic chemicals and solvents. Allergic dermatitis occurs when the skin reacts to allergy-causing items like plants and preservatives. Unlike contact dermatitis, a person’s skin may show a reaction to the contact in an area that did not directly touch the allergen. While anyone may be affected by exposure to irritants that cause contact dermatitis, generally those predisposed to an allergy or with long-term continued exposure develop allergic dermatitis.

Other reported workplace skin disorders include urticaria and occupational skin neoplasms. Urticaria commonly arises from reactions to latex gloves, resulting immediately in raised bumps or hives on the skin. Skin neoplasms, or skin cancers, have been linked to working conditions. For instance, workers who are exposed to chemicals like arsenicals, coal tar or unrefined mineral oils risk absorbing carcinogens; and workers repeatedly exposed to ionizing radiation such as in X-rays, or ultraviolet light from outdoor working conditions, are exposed to proven cancer-causing agents. Sadly, workers are often unaware of the effects these agents have had on their health until decades later when the cancer emerges.

Luckily, many occupational skin disorders can be treated and/or prevented with appropriate medical attention and safety measures. If you feel you are experiencing a work-related medical issue, contact a Chicago workers compensation lawyer who can advise you how to receive assistance.

About the Author: Brooke Haley marketing associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation attorney that practice in the areas of Civil Litigation, Workers’ Compensation, and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts within the State of Illinois. For more information, please visit

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