The Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust has been fined £10,000 and ordered to pay a further £9,620 in costs after it was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive for a breach of Management of Health and Safety at Work regulations.
Torbay Magistrates Court found that the trust had failed to take suitable measures to prevent or monitor at least 23 cases of work-related dermatitis suffered by staff during the previous five years. Magistrates heard how the health and hospital staff were at an increased risk of developing dermatitis due to the frequency with which they needed to wash their hands. In addition to this, staff often had to wear gloves for procedures where there was a high risk of infection, and were also encouraged to use hand-gels provided for them. Despite the well-documented risks, there was very limited information or training for staff to use simple but effective measures such as drying hands thoroughly, and applying moisturisers.
Health testing of employees was negligible, and so detection and monitoring of potential health conditions, particularly dermatitis, were largely ignored. When symptoms were reported, staff were told by the occupational health team to ‘go and see your GP’ and as a result the cases of work-related dermatitis were not linked to occupational health.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Emma O’Hara said: “Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust, which employs 5,000 people, failed to have an adequate management system in place to prevent dermatitis, a recognised condition in the health sector, and deal with it when it arose. Dermatitis is a painful and often unsightly condition which can affect the individual psychologically, socially and physically. Employers must ensure they identify risks to staff and come up with plans and procedures to minimise the risks and make sure cases that do occur are properly treated and recorded.”
If you or someone you know has suffered from work-related dermatitis, help is at hand. If your employer has an occupational health team you should speak to them first, or in their absence, talk to your GP so that immediate treatment can be arranged to minimise the pain or discomfort. Then you should contact one of our highly experienced solicitors to see if you can claim for compensation. Your employer has a responsibility to provide a safe working environment with suitably safe working practices – work-related dermatitis can and should be avoided, so contact us today.