Secondary individual prevention of occupational skin diseases in health care workers, cleaners and kitchen employees: aims, experiences and descriptive results

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2007 May;80(6):477-84. doi: 10.1007/s00420-006-0154-z. Epub 2006 Nov 8.


Objectives: Due to increased occupational dermatoses in certain professions such as health care workers (HCW), cleaning and kitchen employees (CKE), measures of prevention and skin protection are of high significance. Skin protection courses focus on educational aims (e.g. improving skin care habits, influencing the participants' attitudes towards health) and medical aims (e.g. optimising diagnostic procedures, complementing individual therapy).

Methods: Participants are patients who have been suspected to suffer from an occupational skin disease and are insured with the German Accident Prevention & Insurance Association (BGW). Teaching units of the skin protection courses focus on basics of skin functioning and important aspects of occupational skin diseases. Practical parts include information and instructions about the correct implementation of skin protection, skin care and skin cleansing. Every participant is seen by a dermatologist obtaining a precise patient's history and performing a skin examination. All this results in working out individually adapted and professional skin protection strategies.

Results: In total, 791 participants (93 men and 698 women) completed the skin protections courses. Six hundred and sixty-seven patients (mean age: 36.9 years, SD = 11.6) were HCW and 124 patients (mean age: 40.4 years, SD = 10.8) were CKE. In HCW 82.5% (n = 550) and in CKE 86.3% (n = 107) suffered from hand eczema of the atopic, irritant or allergic type. Irritant contact dermatitis as a single diagnosis was the most frequent one in both groups (HCW: 34.5.%, n = 230; CKE: 49.2% n = 61). According to regularly performed evaluations, the participants rated the course as good to excellent. Nearly 80% of the participants had skin lesions while attending the course, in 27% the dermatosis was severe.

Conclusions: There is a high need for health education, advisory services, diagnostics and additional therapy in occupational dermatology. Prevention of occupational skin diseases and maintenance of health through educational programmes are important complementary measures for dermatological care but still missing in endangered professions.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dermatitis, Contact / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Food Service, Hospital*
  • Germany
  • Health Education
  • Health Personnel*
  • Housekeeping, Hospital*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure*