Occupational dermatosis

What is Occupational skin Disease and its Prevention?

Occupational dermatosis can be caused by (1) mechanical, physical, biological and chemical agents, and (2) multifactorial circumstances, as in the case of skin cancer. The predominant causes of occupational dermatosis are chemical agents.Occupational

Occupational Dermatosis caused by physical agents:

Injuries due to chronic exposure to heat, cold, moisture, and sunlight are common in various occupations. Agricultural workers are exposed to various essential oils found in vegetables that have the capacity to trigger photoreaction. The roofers and road workers can be similarly affected from the pitch. The introduction of ionizing radiation, radioactive isotopes into industrial processes and the use of lasers in recent years has given rise to a new group of hazards.


Occupational Dermatosis caused by mechanical agents. The trauma of a particular occupation often gives rise to characteristic stigma ‘badge of the trade’. The following are selected examples: discoloured nails of photographers and hairdressers, white fingers due to traumatic vasospasm in workers handling vibrating tools, metallic tattooing as a result of explosives.

Occupational Dermatosis caused by biological agents. Various occupations are characterized by an increased incidence of bacterial, fungal and viral infections. Among farmers and other workers coming in contact with animals, the occurrence of fungal infection is not uncommon. Superficial infections due to candida have been noted among workers whose skin is exposed to moisture. The viral infections known as milker’s nodules are noted among cow milkers. Erysipelas is contracted by butchers or fish handlers.


Skin conditions caused by chemical agents-

(a) Irritant contact dermatitis: Soap, detergents and solvents are examples of mild irritants which produce dryness, fissuring and dermatitis.

(b) Allergic contact dermatitis: (i) Metals like chromates, nickel and mercury are the most common causes of metal contact dermatitis. The general population is exposed to chromates in leather, matches, glue, paint, detergent and cement. In industry, there is exposure to chromates in paints, welding fumes, cement and anti-corrosive agents; (ii) Allergic contact dermatitis caused by rubber is common. It is not the rubber as such which is the cause, but the volcanization agents. antioxidants and accelerators are the cause of such dermatitis. (iii) Plastics: Synthetic resins are polymerized by the addition of curing agents, stabilizers, plasticizers and catalysts; in addition, accelerators and antioxidants are often added.


(c) Contact photodermatitis: In this condition, the chemicals produce contact dermatitis only in the

be phototoxic or photoallergic. The phototoxic substances are tars, pitch and creosote furocoumarins/Psoralea which are present in, plants and plant products.

(d) Oil acne: Many oils and tars produce acneform eruptions at the site of contact with the skin. Contact with heavy oils, waxes, cutting oils occurs universally among workers involved in the operation of machinery. The eruption appears especially if the clothing becomes impregnated with the oils.

(e) Occupational skin cancer: The majority of reported occupational skin tumours are caused by chemical carcinogens. The most capable substances are polycyclic hydrocarbons, such as 3,4-benzopyrene, and 9,10-dimethyl 1,2 benzanthracene. These substances are found in tar, pitch, and mineral oils or in their distillation products. Farmers, seamen and road workers develop keratoses and carcinomas from chronic sun exposure.

Please, read to get the facts and list of infectious diseases types, causes, prevention, and treatment, and learn how they spread.

Prevention of occupational dermatosis: The principal procedures which may be helpful in the prevention of industrial dermatosis include the following:

(a) Pre-employment examination to detect those workers who may be more susceptible to industrial dermatosis;

(b) cleanliness of the working environment and of the workers;

(c) safeguards for the machinery and for the worker; protective clothing, ointments, and cleansers;

(d) periodical medical examination

(e) education of management and labour.

Prevention of Occupational Diseases

These may be grouped under three heads: (A) Medical measures, (B) Engineering measures, (C) Legislative measures. (A)Medical measures: (1) Pre-placement examination; (2) Periodical examination: (3) Medical and health care services; (4) Notification of occupational diseases; (5) Supervision of working environment: (6) Maintenance and analysis of records; (7) Health education and counselling. (B)Engineering measures: These include: (1) Design of building. (2) Good housekeeping, (3) General ventilation, (4) Mechanization, (5) Substitution, (6) Dust control, (7) Enclosing the harmful material, (8) Isolation of the offensive process, (9) Local exhaust ventilation, (10) Protective devices, (11) Environmental monitoring, (12) Research for the improvement of the process and products.

For further details see Occupational Dermatosis, Occupational Lung Diseases. Dust Hazards, Exposure to Metals, and Hazards of Pesticides discussed earlier in this Chapter, and also Chapter XIX, Sub-chapter 3 under the heading

(C) Legislation: Factory laws and by-laws have been framed to govern the conditions in the industries and to protect workers from industrial hazards. The two most important acts are the Factory (Amendment) Act, 1965 and the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923.


In the Factory Act, 1965 provisions have been made under Chapters III, IV and V with regard to health, safety and welfare of the workers. Various sections deal with important aspects, such as cleanliness, ventilation, humidification, cooling, avoiding overcrowding, adequate lighting, provision of drinking water, latrines, urinals, and safety measures against fire and machinery, and specific welfare measures with regard to washing facilities, first-aid appliances, shelters, canteens, and creches. The Act has also prescribed maximum working hours per worker and has laid down conditions for the employment of child workers.


(A) Agricultural workers. The following are the possible hazards related to the occupation in agriculture:

Physical hazards. (1) The main hazard from agricultural implements is physical injuries from the cutting edges of implements, such as sickle and hatchet. (2) The agricultural machine operator or the farm-hand working with machine is exposed to (a) traumatic injuries, such as cuts, burns, fractures and amputations caused by contact with’ moving parts, falls from and collision with the machine and flying particles projected by the machine; (b) organic injuries caused by noise and vibration from the machine, e.g., occupational deafness; (c) health impairment caused by toxic substances, such as agricultural chemicals and engine gases, (3) The worker may get the injury from the crop, e.g., injury from paddy leaves causing conical ulceration. Farmer’s lung from the dust of hay fibre is a potential danger for the health of the worker.

Chemical hazards. Acute toxicity from various chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, rodenticides, herbicides, etc.) may result from misuse at home or due to accidents. Acute toxicity is characterized by gastrointestinal symptoms. Chronic toxicity from the above chemicals is characterized by symptoms due to damage to the nervous system. digestive system. cardiovascular system, and the blood formation process.

Biological hazards. The following are the possible biological hazards in agricultural work: (a) Fungal infections (of hands and feet). (b) parasitic infestation (worms), (c) gangrene. tetanus, (d) anthrax, (e) bovine tuberculosis.

  • Health care workers. Due to technological complexities and the risk inherent in caring for the sick the health professionals are exposed to many health hazards, such as (1) Radiation hazards- leukaemia, cancer, sterility, ulceration, genetic change, etc. (2) Chemical hazards-(i) chances of developing addiction from anaesthetic gases; (ii) chronic exposure to NO2 in operation theatre (OT) may interfere with vitamin 612 metabolism which can cause neuropathy; (iii) exposure to anaesthetic gases in OT may also be associated with abortion, teratogenesis, mutagenesis, carcinogenesis, liver disease; while working with various chemicals in the laboratory explosion and burn may result, (3) Biological hazards—hepatitis B and C, AIDS, tuberculosis, etc. (4) Mechanical hazards—trauma, pricking of finger by needles, electrical shocks; prolonged standing. in OT by surgeons may cause back pain and muscular strain. (5) Psychological hazards—peptic ulcer, frustration, depression, drug abuse, alcoholism, demoralization, divorce, etc.
  • Office workers. Occupational disorders to office workers may result from (i) Indoor air pollution—headache, nausea, eye irritation, (ii) Stress—anxiety, peptic ulcer, depression, drug abuse, (iii) Eye strain, carpal tunnel syndrome. (iv) low backache, osteoarthritis due to a wrong sitting posture and sedentary work for long hours.
  • Important hazards associated with this occupation are (i) Skin burn, painful conjunctivitis (‘flash burn’); (ii) Heat exhaustion, heat stroke; (iii) Pneumoconiosis, bronchitis, metal fume fever; (iv) Gases may cause irritation to respiratory tract; (v) Electrical hazards, (vi) Noise.
  • Occupational exposure may cause (i) Chronic dermatitis, (ii) Asthma, (iii) Lung cancer.  

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