Is occupational dermatitis an outcome of too much hand cleansing?

Louise Hobbs 1, Sharon McIlduff 1

The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville, VIC, Australia


The Hand Hygiene Australia (HHA) initiative has observed a national increase in hand hygiene compliance. One indicator that has not been monitored and reported is that of occupational contact dermatitis (OCD) cases that may have arisen in response to the increase in HH compliance. The aim of this paper is to describe OCD cases at a large Victorian tertiary referral healthcare facility.

All individuals who reported an OCD incident via the Risk Management reporting tool were referred to a general practitioner and followed up by an Infection Prevention Nurse (IPN). The HHA generic skin care questionnaire and assessment tool was used to define the severity of OCD and determine the possible underlying cause. The Mathias (2012) criteria were used to determine if the OCD incident was work related.

56 healthcare workers reported an OCD incident between 1/9/2014 until 31/12/2015. 84% of the population were female with a mean age of 37 years, compared to males (16%) with a mean age of 32 years). The Mathias (2012) criteria determined that 8.9% of cases were directly related to the workplace, 85.7% partially related and 5% were unknown. A review of individual risk factors found 77% of cases had reported an atopic background. Other risk factors included hand washing more than 20 time per shift (77%), working in a high acuity (23%) or procedural area (21%) and not moisturising (73%).

It would be recommended to have a targeted education program for this high risk group of healthcare workers.


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