- Safety and Health Topics
- Dermal Exposure
Skin exposure to chemicals in the workplace is a significant problem in the U.S. Both the number of cases and the rate of skin disease in the U.S. exceeds recordable respiratory illnesses. In 2010, 34,400 recordable skin diseases were reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) at a rate of 3.4 injuries per 10,000 employees, compared to 19,300 respiratory illnesses with a rate of 1.9 illnesses per 10,000 employees. [See Table 6a and Table 6b in Workplace Injuries and Illnesses - 2010.
Most chemicals are readily absorbed through the skin and can cause other health effects and/or contribute to the dose absorbed by inhalation of the chemical from the air. Many studies indicate that absorption of chemicals through the skin can occur without being noticed by the worker. In many cases, skin is a more significant route of exposure than the lung. This is particularly true for non-volatile chemicals which are relatively toxic and which remain on work surfaces for long periods of time. The number of occupational illnesses caused by skin absorption of chemicals is not known. However, it is argued that an estimated 60,000 deaths and 860,000 occupational illnesses per year in the U.S. attributed to occupational exposure, a relatively small percentage caused by skin exposure would represent a significant health risk.(1)
Dermal exposures are addressed in specific OSHA standards for General Industry, Shipyard Employment, Marine Terminals, Construction, and Identification, Classification, and Regulation of Carcinogens.
Provides references that may aid in creating a greater awareness of possible hazards.
Provides information on how to estimate and evaluate dermal exposure.
Control and Prevention
Provides information and references on how to control and prevent dermal exposure.
Provides references to supporting information related to dermal exposure.
Provides links and references to additional resources related to dermal exposure.
Workers have the right to:
- Working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
- Receive information and training (in a language and vocabulary the worker understands) about workplace hazards, methods to prevent them, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace.
- Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
- File a complaint asking OSHA to inspect their workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or that their employer is not following OSHA's rules. OSHA will keep all identities confidential.
- Exercise their rights under the law without retaliation, including reporting an injury or raising health and safety concerns with their employer or OSHA. If a worker has been retaliated against for using their rights, they must file a complaint with OSHA as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days.
For additional information, see OSHA's Workers page.
How to Contact OSHA
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov or call OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), TTY 1-877-889-5627.