Managing risks

There are many ways a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) and workers can eliminate or minimise the risk of contact dermatitis. 

Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking 

If you are a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) (such as a business owner or workplace operator) you have a duty under the model WHS laws to make sure your workplace is safe for your workers and for others in the workplace This includes managing the risk of contact dermatitis.

Managing the risk of contact dermatitis can be achieved by selecting and implementing measures using the hierarchy of control measures. Control measures are ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. For more information, see our page Identify, assess and control hazards.

The first control measure is to eliminate the risk. This is the most effective and reliable way to reduce risk. For example:

  • use a dishwasher to wash and dry dishes rather than by hand to remove wet work
  • use nitrile (blue) gloves rather than latex gloves  for people that are allergic to latex.
  • use a water-based product (e.g. paints and sealers) instead of a solvent-based product, to reduce chemical exposure.

If you can’t eliminate the risk, there are things you can do to minimise the risk. For example:

  • using tongs or baskets to pick up wet items rather than hands
  • haring wet work between workers to minimise the amount done by one person
  • have air conditioning in areas where people have to work in waterproof clothing to reduce sweating
  • train workers about the hazards, including those related to wet work, and how to look after their skin after wet work
  • provide soaps and cleaners designed for use on skin and tell workers not to use solvents or harsh detergents to clean their hands
  • provide PPE such as gloves for workers that might be exposed to chemicals that could cause dermatitis
  • provide cotton gloves that can be worn inside protective gloves to absorb sweat
  • introduce a skin check program for workers so they can identify the early warning signs of contact dermatitis
  • educate workers about hazards in the workplace, skin health and how to use the correct personal protective equipment (PPE).

It is important to review any risk management steps you use in the workplace to make sure that they are effective. It is also important to manage any new risks that could be introduced. For example, gloves can stop a substance getting on a worker’s hands but introduce their own contact dermatitis risks due to sweating or allergy to latex.

Workers

Workers have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and to not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons at the workplace. 

Workers must:

  • use or wear personal protective equipment (PPE) provided, 
  • following the information and training about the use of PPE,
  • make sure any protective clothing or equipment is clean and intact, 
  • tell their supervisor if something at work is causing skin irritation or contact dermatitis
  • follow, as far as you can, any work health and safety instructions from your supervisor.

Workers should also: 

  • make sure you are wearing the right type of PPE for the task,
  • understand what chemicals they are working with and read their Safety Data Sheets.