Magistrates have fined the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust £10,000, for not doing enough to stop its workers developing dermatitis.
Torquay Magistrates’ Court was told how a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspection discovered the Trust failed to report 23 cases of dermatitis from 2007 to 2012. It is legally required to inform the HSE about such matters.
The HSE prosecuted the Trust, which admitted breaching the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 on February 20 this year.
The court heard Trust staff were more likely than usual to develop dermatitis and other skin complaints at its hospitals.
In order to reduce the risk of infection workers were required to wash their hands often, use hand gel and wear gloves.
Lack of information
Dermatitis can be controlled by using moisturisers and making sure hands are properly dried after washing. But the Trust didn’t do enough to inform its staff of these methods, magistrates were told.
Health checks were not carried out on a regular basis and occupational health personnel told staff to consult their GP when any symptoms were evident, the court heard.
The Trust did not recognise combating irritant contact dermatitis (ICD) and allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) as priorities, magistrates were told.
Damage to skin cells
ICD is a problem when certain substances get on the skin of workers, particularly on their hands, over long periods of time. It can cause skin cell damage and skin can blister, crack, flake or swell. ACD involves allergic reactions to substances and causes a rash or inflammation of the skin.
Another word for dermatitis is eczema and it is usually treated with a steroid cream or ointment. The best long-term treatment is considered to be avoiding the substance that caused it in the first place.
As well as the fine, the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust, based at Treliske, Truro, must also pay £9,620 towards the cost of the prosecution.
Source: Health and Safety Executive