Dermatitis among workers in Ontario: results from the Occupational Disease Surveillance System

Occup Environ Med. 2019 Sep;76(9):625-631. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2018-105667. Epub 2019 Jul 18.


Objectives: Dermatitis is the most common occupational skin disease, and further evidence is needed regarding preventable risk factors. The Occupational Disease Surveillance System (ODSS) derived from administrative data was used to investigate dermatitis risk among industry and occupation groups in Ontario.

Methods: ODSS cohort members were identified from Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) accepted lost time claims. A case was defined as having ≥2 dermatitis physician billing claims during a 12-month period within 3 years of cohort entry. A 3-year look-back period prior to cohort entry was used to exclude prevalent cases without a WSIB claim. Workers were followed for 3 years or until dermatitis diagnosis, age 65 years, emigration, death or end of follow-up (31 December 2016), whichever occurred first. Age-adjusted and sex-adjusted Cox proportional hazard models estimated HRs and 95% CIs. The risk of dermatitis was explored using a job exposure matrix that identifies exposure to asthmagens, many of which also cause contact dermatitis.

Results: Among 597 401 workers, 23 843 cases of new-onset dermatitis were identified. Expected elevated risks were observed among several groups including furniture and fixture industries, food and beverage preparation and chemicals, petroleum, rubber, plastic and related materials processing occupations and workers exposed to metal working fluids and organic solvents. Decreased risk was observed among farmers, nurses and construction industries, and occupations exposed to latex and indoor cleaning products.

Conclusions: ODSS can contribute to occupational dermatitis surveillance in Ontario by identifying occupational groups at risk of dermatitis that can then be prioritised for prevention activities.

Keywords: Ontario; dermatitis; occupational disease; occupational exposure; surveillance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dermatitis, Occupational / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Industry*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Occupations*
  • Ontario / epidemiology
  • Population Surveillance
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Assessment
  • Young Adult