An NHS Trust has been fined for failing to prevent or properly monitor more than 20 cases of dermatitis amongst its staff over a five year period.
The Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust pleaded guilty to breaching the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations following at least 23 cases of dermatitis among staff between 2007 and 2012.
The extent of the problem was revealed during a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspection, when it transpired that the NHS Trust had failed to report the 23 cases to the HSE, as required by law.
Torquay Magistrates heard that because hospital employees need to wash their hands so often to avoid infection, they are at an increased risk of developing adverse skin reactions.
Dermatitis, or eczema, is a skin condition most commonly caused by water. Dermatitis can also be caused through the repeated use of soap or contact with a dangerous or toxic substance that irritates the skin or causes an allergic reaction.
Industrial Dermatitis is one of the most common occupational skin diseases in the country responsible for an estimated 84,000 cases that are either caused or made worse by people’s work.
The Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust was found to have failed to monitor employees to detect signs of dermatitis or other skin disorders. When staff did report symptoms they were simply told to see their GPs.
As a result, the NHS Trust - which was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9,620 - had no way of monitoring the number of cases affecting their employees and the issue was never flagged as a priority.
Dermatitis is a recognised condition in the health sector and employers need to have adequate management plans in place to deal with the issue. Dermatitis can cause painful swelling, flaking, blistering and cracking and can affect people psychologically as well as physically.
In regard to any Industrial Disease, employers have a duty of responsibility to their staff to identify any and all risks in the workplace and implement all necessary measures to ensure employees are protected and that cases are properly dealt with.
Jane Martin is a Serious Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.
For expert legal advice on what to do if you have a work related disease or industrial dermatitis call Slater and Gordon Lawyers for a free consultation on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online.
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