Occupational contact dermatitis (OCD) is a skin condition caused by work-related exposures in the workplace in workers exposed to irritating or allergenic substances, or specific physical factors in the workplace. In most western industrialised countries, OCD is one of the most commonly reported occupational diseases.

The performance of ‘wet work’ and the use of powered disposable latex gloves are two important causes of OCD. This preliminary survey of exposures for OCD in healthcare, hairdressing and food handling has shown appreciable exposure to skin irritants.

The severity of OCD may be measured in terms of medical, pharmaceutical and workers’ compensation costs, diminished employment prospects, retraining costs and effects on quality of life.

Effective prevention measures for the control of OCD must be directly targeted at specific risk factors and exposures. In reviewing these measures, recommendation on the causes, diagnosis and treatment of OCD are outlined.

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