Skin Exposures and Effects: Recommendations and Resources

woman smelling flowers, latex gloves, chef cooking over hot grill


Employers should follow the hierarchy of controls in order to prevent occupational skin disease in workers. Employers should take the following step to protect workers:

  • Elimination: Eliminating exposure to the compound or product that causes the skin condition is the most effective method of control.
  • Substitution: If possible, employers should attempt to substitute the hazardous agent a less hazardous compound.
  • Engineering controls: If elimination or substitution is not possible, engineering controls can prevent hazardous agents from contacting workers’ skin. Examples of engineering controls include local exhaust ventilation systems and isolation booths.
  • Administrative controls: Employers should provide training programs that educate workers about hazards that they may be exposed to and ways to protect themselves.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE): When other control methods are unable to reduce the hazardous exposure to safe levels, employers must provide PPE. Gloves, safety glasses or goggles, shop coats or coveralls, and boots should be provided by employers and worn by workers involved in the following activities (not an exhaustive list):
    • Wet or dry cleaning of work tools, equipment and work areas
    • Disinfection of work tools, equipment, and work areas
    • Contact with solvents
    • Contact with monomers of epoxy resins and tacky surfaces or hardening agents (such as glue or epoxy resins)
    • Use of preparations containing soaps, detergents, and disinfectants

Occupational dermal risks can also be assessed using control banding. This is an approach in which a control measure (such as general ventilation) is applied to a range or “band” of chemical exposures (such as 1−10 mg/m3) that falls within a given hazard group.

NIOSH Resources

Skin Notation (SK) Profiles
Skin notations characterize the direct, systemic, and sensititzing effects of exposures of the skin to chemicals. The Skin Notation Profile for a chemical provides information supplemental to the skin notation, including a summary of all relevant data used to aid in determining the hazards associated with skin exposures.

Skin Permeation Calculator
This Java-based calculator estimates the value of kp from an aqueous vehicle using three different models: Frasch, Potts & Guy and Modified Robinson.

Finite Dose Skin Permeation Calculator
This Java-based calculator estimates fluxes, skin concentrations, and amounts absorbed from any size dose applied to partially or fully hydrated skin.

NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards
The Pocket Guide is a source of general industrial hygiene information on several hundred chemicals/classes found in the work environment. The guide includes exposure limits, respirator recommendations, first aid, and more. The entries contain information related to skin exposures and effects.

NIOSH Occupational Exposure Banding Process for Chemical Risk Management
The NIOSH occupational exposure banding process seeks to create a consistent and documented process with a decision logic to characterize chemical hazards so that timely, well-informed risk management decisions can be made for chemical substances that lack occupational exposure limits. Users can band a chemical manually or by using the occupational exposure banding e-Tool.

Immune, Infectious and Dermal Disease Prevention Program
The NIOSH Immune, Infectious, and Dermal Diseases Prevention Program supports laboratory and field investigations and the development of scientifically based recommendations to promote safe and healthful working conditions.

NIOSHTIC-2 is a searchable bibliographic database of occupational safety and health publications, documents, grant reports, and journal articles supported in whole or in part by NIOSH.
NIOSHTIC-2 search results on Skin Exposures and Effects

The NIOSH Science Blog provides an opportunity to learn about various workplace safety and health topics and exchange ideas with leading researchers from NIOSH. Check out NIOSH Science Blogs about dermal exposure.

Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Reports
The Health Hazard Evaluation Program helps employees, unions, and employers learn whether health hazards are present at their workplace and recommends ways to reduce hazards and prevent work-related illness. To find reports related to skin exposures and effects, go to the search function, locate the health effects dropdown, and select “skin.”

Occupational Dermatoses Program for Physicians
114 slides and narrative with an additional 26 slides on case studies. Endorsed by The American Academy of Dermatology and The American Academy of Occupational Medicine