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June 18, 2009

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Guidance – dermatitis- Health workers advised on hand protection

Employers in the health sector should provide more skin-care programmes for workers with dermatitis, including education and advice about good hand washing and drying techniques, and provide gloves and moisturising creams in the workplace.

The Occupational Health Clinical Effectiveness Unit (OHCEU), which is funded by NHS Plus, and operated in partnership by the Royal College of Physicians and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, has developed a new guideline for employers following a review of research evidence focusing on health-care workers with dermatitis. The researchers found that bacteria and other micro-organisms are more likely to be present on skin that is affected by dermatitis than on normal skin. The guideline therefore recommends that clinicians should advise health-care (and other) workers with dermatitis of these risks, which are higher with more acute and more severe lesions.

It also advises managers and OH professionals to recommend the use of moisturising creams, as well as alcohol rubs, where appropriate, as a substitute for full hand washing. Employees are recommended to seek early treatment to minimise symptoms from their skin condition and allow them to continue in their usual job.

Commenting on the guideline, Dr Ira Madan, director of clinical standards at NHS Plus, said: “Nearly one in ten people suffers from hand dermatitis in their lifetime. Despite this there has been relatively little research carried out into whether there is an increased risk of transmitting bacteria from a person with a skin condition. It is important to be able to determine the risks, and to be able to put in place systems that will protect patients and health-care workers alike.”

To find out more about the OHCEU and its work go to

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