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This page gives advice on substances that can cause breathing and skin problems, and how to reduce the risks they present.
You will also find details of legal duties and obligations relating to skin and respiratory sensitisers and links to further information.
Substances at work may cause allergies when breathed in, or when they come into contact with the skin.
Such substances are called skin and respiratory sensitisers.
They can cause permanent damage to the skin, nose, throat, and lungs.
If this happens, further exposure, even to minute quantities, may result in allergic symptoms.
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Symptoms vary depending on which body system is affected.
Effects on the respiratory system can be the runny, itching eyes and nose typical of hay fever. These may be followed by more severe symptoms typical of asthma such as:
Symptoms of the skin can be itchy, dry, red and cracked skin typical of irritation. These may be followed by more severe dermatitis symptoms such as:
Workers and employers should be especially vigilant if working with:
As well as the moral duty of employers to protect employees and members of the public, General Health and Safety Legislation covers all employers and workplaces.
This includes protecting employees and the public from risks associated with skin and respiratory sensitisers.
More specifically, the following regulations place duties and obligations on employers:
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 These regulations set out the legal requirements for protecting people at work against risks to their health.
To comply the employer needs to:
→ Read more on Hazardous Substances.
Please see our page on Health Surveillance.
→ Why is flour dust an issue and what should I be doing about it?
COSHH Essentials (external site) This Health and Safety Executive site guides employers through the risk assessment and control process for common tasks and substances, including skin and respiratory sensitisers.
Free resources from Healthy Working Lives
Free guidance from the Health and Safety Executive Note – all links are to external pages on the HSE website giving options to download or order these resources:
Priced guidance from the Health and Safety Executive Note – all links are to external pages on the HSE website giving options to order these resources:
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