BACKGROUND: Of occupational diseases, although skin is a commonly affected site, skin diseases are rarely reported and have been poorly compensated in the past due to their relatively low morbidity rate. OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to analyze the characteristics of occupational skin diseases compensated by the Industrial Accident Compensation Insurance which is managed by the Korea Labor Welfare Corporation (KLWC). METHOD: Using the KLWC database, we selected 216 cases of occupational skin diseases which had been compensated between 1 January 1999 and 31 December 2003. We analyzed the characteristics (sex, age, type of occupational disease, exposure material, type of industry and occupation, etc.) of occupational diseases, using data from the KLWC records and from cases that had been investigated by the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency (KOSHA). RESULTS: 216 cases were compensated by the KLWC, with men accounting for 76.4% (165 cases) of the cases. The most common age group was 50-59 years of age (n=73, 33.8%). The majority of diseases were contact dermatitis (116 cases, 53.7%), cellulitis (36 cases, 16.7%), leukoderma (11 cases, 5.7%), urticaria (9 cases, 4.2%) and scabies (7 cases, 3.2%). The causal hazardous agents of 147 cases were plants (72 cases, 49.0%), chemicals (32 cases, 21.8%), drugs (7 cases, 4.8%) and oils and greases (5 cases, 3.4%). The major types of industry were public administration and defence (91 cases, 42.1%), manufacturing (57 cases, 27.1%), other community, repair and personal service activities (13 cases, 6.0%), construction (12 cases, 5.6%) and business activities (11 cases, 5.1%). The type of occupation included elementary occupations (115 cases, 53.2%), craft and related trades workers (30 cases, 13.9%), plant and machine operators and assemblers (20 cases, 9.3%) and service workers (18 cases, 8.3%). CONCLUSION: From this study, we were able to elucidate the kind of occupational skin diseases and the characteristics of workers. Many of the compensated cases belonged to daily-paid workers in the public service, especially forestry care workers. The most commonly occurring disease was allergic contact dermatitis. This suggests that a management policy must be established to prevent occupational skin diseases occurring among workers in the above types of industry. Also, this study suggests that more research needs to be conducted to elucidate the relationship between exposure to hazardous agents and occupational skin diseases such as occupational skin cancers, leukoderma and trichloroethylene induced Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.
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