In Europe, occupational skin diseases (OSD) – mainly irritant and allergic contact dermatitis of the hands – constitute currently up to 40% of all work-related illnesses causing extensive suffering for affected workers. Due to emerging new workplace hazards and demographic change OSD are likely to increase over the next years. The annual costs incurred by OSD are estimated to exceed by far 5 billion € in the EU due to medical treatment, sick leave and loss of productivity.Results
Recent studies have demonstrated that dermatological intervention can save OSD patients’ health and jobs, and avoid individual suffering as well as reduce costs for society. A longitudinal study carried out in Germany with severely OSD affected workers showed that due to an interdisciplinary in-patient prevention scheme 80% of patients were still working 3 years after the measure and sick leave was sustainably reduced (total cohort: N=1,409). Similar results were obtained from a randomized nationwide follow up study of initial cases of contact dermatitis receiving outpatient skin protection seminars and regular outpatient treatment by the local dermatologists (N=1,600). However, as yet, insurance systems in many countries do neither enable specific dermatological intervention nor specific preventive measures. Since 2010 the EADV ‘healthy skin @work’ campaign aims at raising awareness at the primary prevention level, and also to improve options for medical care for affected individuals, and coordinate scientific efforts. This dermatological initiative is also an official partner of the ‘Healthy workplaces campaign’ by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU OSHA).Discussion
In various European countries OSD specific centers have been or are being implemented (e.g. Austria and Denmark) geared at applying specifically tailored measures for OSD patients. In Germany on the other hand, where since 2009 the ‘Week of Occupational skin Diseases (WOOD)’ has been carried out, a 30% increase of OSD notifications could be observed, which will help tackle the under-reporting. At the same time, costs for job-retraining have substantially decreased due to earlier and more effective preventive intervention.