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Dermatitis (eczema) is the second most common health problem and causes half a million working days to be lost each year, experts have claimed.

According to the British Association of Dermatologists (Bad), only musculo-skeletal problems are more common than dermatitis, which is often triggered by conditions in the workplace.

Spokeswoman Nina Goad revealed: 'Occupational skin disease is very common. In fact, approximately 29 per cent of industrial health problems are contact dermatitis, while many more cases go unreported.'

Ms Goad said that prevention is 'extremely important' and urged employers to take measures to protect their staff.

She also noted that women tend to be less tolerant of the visible symptoms of dermatitis and have therefore traditionally been more likely to seek help.

'However, occupational skin disease affects both men and women, and should not be tolerated as a side effect of a specific job,' the expert concluded.

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