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Duration of wet work in hairdressers


Aim of the study

Occupational contact dermatitis caused by wet work is particularly common in hairdressers. Data on the duration of wet work (DWW) in the hairdresser’s trade are not well known until now. A questionnaire or self-reported/estimated skin exposure are not suitable to get accurate information about DWW. According to the guidance of the German Federal Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs, employees with DWW > 2 h per day should get a possibility for targeted occupational-medical health examinations. Targeted occupational-medical health examinations are prescribed for employees with daily duration of wet work longer than 4 h. The aim of the study was to quantify the average daily exposition to wet work in hairdressers.

Materials and methods

In our study, we used the direct observation as a standard method to analyse the work steps and to measure DWW in hairdressers. We developed the instrument for the analyses of activities in hairdresser salons and measurement of DWW in hairdressers during their 8-h shift. At the beginning of the study, 60 observers were intensively instructed and trained in the procedure of analysis.


The mean of duration of wet work (DWW) in 106 8-h shifts analysed was 8,234 s (approx. 2 h 17 min). The minimum of DWW was 278 s and the maximum 21,135 s (approx. 6 h); the standard deviation was 3,826 s. In 37% of the analysed 8-h shifts, DWW was shorter than 2 h, in 58% between 2 and 4 h and in 5% longer than 4 h. Eighteen per cent of the DWW was caused by wearing water-resistant protective gloves. We found positive correlations between “DWW” and “DWW > 2 h”, with the predictors “number of customers total”, “number of long-haired people” and “number of female customers”.


According to the guidance of the German Federal Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs, hairdressers should get a possibility for targeted occupational-medical health examinations.

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We are grateful to the students of for all their work in recruiting and interviewing the participants, and processing the data and the samples. Financial support for this work was provided by Institution of Statutory Accident Insurance of the Health and Welfare Service, Hamburg, Germany.

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Correspondence to N. Kralj.

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Kralj, N., Oertel, C., Doench, N.M. et al. Duration of wet work in hairdressers. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 84, 29–34 (2011).

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  • Hairdressers
  • Wet work
  • Dermatitis