Occupational health

Conference Reports

Occupational skin diseases - a neglected occupational health problem

Dr Ivan D. Ivanov, Scientist Occupational Health, WHO

Occupational skin diseases are among the three most frequent groups of occupational diseases. In some sectors, for example agriculture, construction, hairdressing, healthcare, occupational skin diseases are a major health problem causing high rates of sickness absence and permanent disability. Occupational skin cancer is becoming a bigger problem, particularly in the context of increased exposure to solar UV radiation. However, occupational skin diseases have attracted relatively little attention in the global and national agendas for prevention of occupational and work-related diseases.

To overcome the lack of attention to this widespread occupational health problem WHO and the European Association of Dermatology and Venerology organized a global workshop in Geneva on 22 and 23 February 2011. This was an unique event brining together clinical and preventive experts from occupational health and dermatology. The workshop reviewed the challenges for diagnosis and prevention of occupational skin diseases and the national situation and experience of Italy, USA, South Africa, China, India, Republic of Korea, India, Colombia and Germany.

Workshop participants agreed to undertake the following action:

  • to quantify the burden of occupational skin diseases
  • to collect and disseminate practical tools for workplace risk assessment and management
  • to develop key messages and standard lecture and training materials for primary health care providers, general practitioners, and occupational health experts
  • to prepare a list of technical interventions for prevention of occupational skin diseases, such as the elimination of chromium 6 in cements.
  • to stimulate the collaboration between WHO collaborating centres for occupational health and the networks of occupational dermatologists
Skin disease meeting at WHO - February 2011
Skin disease meeting at WHO - February 2011