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Ohio State University Extension


Skin Irritants and Allergens

Agricultural Tailgate Safety Training for Operators and Supervisors
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Agricultural Safety and Health Program

Objective: To be able to describe the hazards that can occur when solvents and acids come in contact with the skin, and to know how to prevent this exposure.

Trainer’s Note

It will be important to have employees understand that skin is a valuable body tissue that must be protected from danger. The following discussion questions will help serve as an employee training tool and familiarize employees with the proper procedures to follow in the event that skin is contacted with solvents and acids. Ask the employees to identify the protective equipment and devices used in the operation. Include the importance of proper maintenance. Identify and review the operation of emergency showers, eyewash fountains, emergency hand/face spray units and other emergency equipment. Review procedures for reporting incidental exposures to hazardous substance. Review the true or false quiz.


Solvents affect the skin differently. Because they are usually used to remove grease and oil in industrial processes, it is not surprising that these solvents also remove fats and oils from the skin. When this occurs, water is also lost, and the skin becomes cracked and dry. On the other hand, prolonged exposure to oils and waxes can plug the skin’s hair follicles and sweat ducts, causing inflammation and acne.

Occupational Contact Dermatitis is an inflamed and irritated skin condition. There are two types of dermatitis: irritant and allergic.

Irritant Contact Dermatitis (ICD): Occurs when skin is repeatedly exposed to an irritant over a long period of time. Strong acids, caustics, and solvents are example of irritants.

  • Water
  • Detergents
  • Poison ivy
  • Animal waste

The following chart will help you organize the session.

Irritants Example Exposure Duration Effect of Exposure
Strong acids Hydrochloric acids
Sulfuric acids
Nitric acids
Brief Severe burns
Strong caustics Sodium hydroxide
Potassium hydroxide
Brief Severe burns
Strong solvents Paint remover
Prolonged Inflammation

Allergic Contact Dermatitis (ACD): Occurs as a result of an allergic reaction to a substance. The sensitivity is usually established over a long period, and once established, exposure to just a small amount of the substance can produce a severe case of dermatitis.

  • Pesticides and insecticides
  • Sunscreens
  • Rubber accelerants
  • Bee and wasp stings

Ways to Prevent Dermatitis

  • Before working with a process involving hazardous substances, make sure of the hazards.
  • Read the labels on the containers and learn the emergency procedures in case an incident occurs.
  • When working with primary irritants, try to avoid contact, especially when strong corrosive materials are involved.
  • Use personal protective equipment, such as proper gloves, sleeves, aprons, shields and footwear, and barrier creams.

Review the Following Points

  • Be familiar with all types of skin irritants.
  • Know what substances used in your operation are dangerous.
  • Know the correct procedures to follow during an emergency.
  • Wear protective equipment when on the job.
  • Call for help when needed.

About These Modules

The Ag Tailgate Training Series was developed by members of the Agricultural Safety and Health Program in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Revised by Dee Jepsen, State Agricultural Safety Leader, with editing assistance by Lisa Pfeifer and Cody McClain.

True or False Answer Key

  1. T
  2. T
  3. F
  4. T
  5. T

Quiz: Skin Irritants and Allergens



True or False?         

1. Solvents are used to remove grease and oil in the industrial process, and can remove fats and oils from the skin. T F
2. Skin is a valuable body tissue.  T F
3. When working with primary irritants, it is not necessary to try to avoid direct contact. T F
4. Strong caustics can cause severe burns. T F
5. Sensitization is the result of an allergic reaction to a substance. T F








Originally posted Oct 4, 2019.