Floor Layers

  • Luis Conde-Salazar
  • Felipe HerasEmail author
  • Agustin Alomar
Living reference work entry


Epoxy resin is the main allergen in floor layers workers.

Airborne contact dermatitis is the classical clinical picture, affecting the face, neck, and dorsal hands.

Patch testing with an epoxy resin series is highly recommended, including diluents and hardeners of the resin.

The affected workers must avoid direct and indirect contact with the resin not polymerized, so a change of workplace is normally mandatory.


Floor layer Epoxy resin Epoxy diluent Epoxy hardener Airborne contact dermatitis 

1 Core Messages

  • Epoxy resin is the main allergen in floor layers workers.

  • Airborne contact dermatitis is the classical clinical picture, affecting the face, neck, and dorsal hands.

  • Patch testing with an epoxy resin series is highly recommended, including diluents and hardeners of the resin.

  • The affected workers must avoid direct and indirect contact with the resin not polymerized, so a change of workplace is normally mandatory.

2 Introduction

In the last few years, there has been a growing demand, both in large civil construction works and in industrial facilities, for flooring that is intended to be exposed to contact with aggressive agents and/or continual friction or percussion (Table 1). This has resulted in a gradual increase in the use of resins, together with other materials, as a way to obtain industrial paving, flooring, and coatings that offer maximum safety in the situation for which they have been designed; in general terms, they should fulfill minimum requirements related to the service that they are expected to provide, such as resistance to weight, impacts, wear, and tear (vehicles and pedestrians), environmental and climatic factors (humidity, dust, sunlight, frost, etc.), and materials used in industrial settings (acids, alkalis, solvents, etc.).
Table 1

Applications of especial floorings




Chemical industry

Food sector

Hypermarkets and shopping malls


Computer centers

Sports installations

Civic centers

3 Laying Products and Contact Dermatitis

The laying of resin-based flooring is done by applying paints, liquid pastes, or mortars containing epoxy resins to the surface to be treated. They are spread with rakes, brushes, etc. (Fig. 1), until the desired thickness, which usually varies between 0.5 and 15 mm, is reached. The paints and pastes are characterized by their antidust and antiskid effects, together with their good performance against chemical agents; while the principal characteristic of epoxy mortars, e.g., Monolit, is their high resistance to mechanical compression, water, and hydrocarbon derivatives, it is also important that, together with these requirements, they perform adequately with regard to other issues, such as dust formation and ease of cleaning and maintenance. The main advantages of resin finishes are their ability to provide level surfaces with antiskid properties and to resist damage despite continual use. To modify the texture and color of the final finish, other preparations of various powder types and coloring are added to these finishes.
Fig. 1

Usual position of the worker during epoxy resin floor laying (spreading of flat layers)

The working method consists in the application of the flooring to any type of base (terrazzo, stone, etc.) following preparation of its surface. To guarantee the bonding and removal of any debris, openings are made in existing joints and cracks with a mechanical drill. Then a series of layers or coatings, one on top of the other, is applied to confer the final required properties to the flooring. These coatings are (1) an impregnating coat, which soaks into the pores of the base and guarantees the adherence of the upper coats; (2) a meshing coat for treating the cracks and joints by means of a flexible mesh; (3) a leveling and smoothing coat of high-quality resin, mixed with quartz, to compensate from any irregularities in the base; (4) a ground coat of resin of high mechanical resistance mixed with quartz, which gives solidity and resilience to the base; and (5) a finishing and coloring coat, again with a resin of high resistance to abrasion, combined with quartz of different sizes. As an option, additional coats can be added to the flooring to give resistance to special chemical agents and for ultraviolet protection purposes. The whole process takes from 3 to 4 days. One day after application of the last coat, the flooring already has a mechanical resistance of 80% of its final value (700 kg/cm2), and after 7 days, it can be subjected to chemical attack.

The application of special floorings is undertaken either by small firms dedicated exclusively to this type of work or by specific divisions within large construction firms. The workers are usually casual or temporary employees. The pattern of work is itinerant (according to contracts) and in widely separated places, which is the cause of high mobility and poor occupational health care in these workers.

Small firms obtain the resins from big, multinational chemical companies that provide their clients with information about their products and recommend protective measures, with precise and strict guideline for handling and protection. They even advise dermatological consultation in the event of any lesion. Nevertheless, the protective measures actually used by these workers are usually scarce (if any are used at all).

The affected workers are relatively young with respect to the mean age of construction workers in general. Only 20% of patients are older than 55 years at presentation, and these tend to be full-time construction workers previously sensitized to chromates, with a recent history of exposure to special floorings. Moreover, floor layers tend to seek medical help rather early after the onset of symptoms, in contrast to general construction workers, who usually seek help after several years of dermatitis.

The localization of the lesions does not fit the normal pattern for construction workers. Even though lesions on the hands (Fig. 2) can be observed in up to 75% of patients, about 50% of them present with lesions on the face (Fig. 3), principally edema of the eyelids, which suggests airborne exposure or indirect contact. The high sensitizing capacity of epoxy resin floorings is confirmed by the early onset of sensitization (usually within 6 months of exposure) in most cases.
Fig. 2

Clinical appearance of epoxy resin dermatitis on the face

Fig. 3

Hand involvement is also common in epoxy resin contact dermatitis occurring in floor layers

Most patients show sensitivity to epoxy resin, but only about 30% show positive results (mostly to chromate but also to thiuram mix and carba mix) when patch tested with the standard series. Of the three patients who were positive to chromate in our series, two were among the oldest workers and had worked for several years in classical construction work. In tests using the plastics and glues series, we found that five of the patients were sensitive to phenyl glycidyl ether and four to 4,4′-diaminodiphenylmethane, which in two patients was the only sensitivity found.

Maibach (1987) and Adams (1990) report on the applications of epoxy resins in floor laying as well as in their more classic uses in public works, such as leakproof sealing of pipelines, motorway signaling and maintenance, repairing cracks in concrete, and bonding concrete to itself or to steel or stone, as in monument restoration. In 1984, Van Putten et al. (1984) published a report on a prospective study of the incidence of dermatitis on the hands and forearms and sensitivity to resins in 135 male construction workers specifically dedicated to the laying of special floorings. They found that 18% of them had presented with eczema of the hands in the previous 3 years and that 60.8% of patients in this group tested positive to epoxy resin. They also pointed out the role played in sensitization by resins contaminating gloves, particularly if made of cotton, which can act as a reservoir of the allergen after continuous use during a working day.

Conde-Salazar et al. (1994) studied 15 cases of men working as special flooring layers who became sensitized to epoxy resin or derivatives. Most of them did not know the exact composition of the products that they handled, and protective measures either did not exist or were incorrectly used. All patients were patch tested with the TRUE Test standard series and an epoxy series (Table 2), 14 with a plastics and glues series, and 6 with an acrylates series (all additional series were from Chemotechnique Diagnostics). The speed of sensitization, severity of lesions, and localization to the hands, face, and legs were the characteristics.
Table 2

Epoxy series (Chemotechnique Diagnostics)



2.0% pet


4,4′-Diaminodiphenylmethane (MDA)

0.5% pet


Triethylenetetramine (TETA)

0.5% pet


2-Phenyl glycidyl ether

0.25% pet


Diethylenetriamine (DETA)

1.0% pet


Isophorone diamine (IPD)

0.1% pet


Epoxy resin, cycloaliphatic

0.5% pet


Ethylenediamine dihydrochloride

1.0% pet



1.0% aq


Epoxy resin, bisphenol F

0.25% pet


1,6-Hexanediol diglycidylether

0.25% pet


1,4-Butanediol diglycidyl ether

0.25% pet



0.1% pet


Trimethylolpropane triglycidyl ether

0.25% pet



0.5% pet

Pet petrolatum, Aq water

Workers in construction or public works who have severe lesions on the face, hands, and feet presenting a short time after starting work should be suspected of having been sensitized to epoxy resin or derivatives. Those patients should be patch tested, not only with the standard series but also with plastics to identify sensitivity to these components.

In cases where sensitivity to epoxy resins is demonstrated, we recommend a change in workplace and complete elimination of direct or indirect contact with epoxy resin flooring components at all times. Methods of prevention should be pointed out to the manufacturers (use of special gloves, masks, etc.) to avoid further sensitization. We consider the most useful methods to be supplying the workers with correct information about the risks, adequate personal hygiene, sufficient ventilation of the facility, and daily changes of appropriate gloves and work clothes. Moreover, individuals with dermatitis or cutaneous alterations should not be selected for jobs that imply a high risk of sensitization.


  1. Adams R (1990) Occupational skin disease. W.B. Saunders, Philadelphia, p 403Google Scholar
  2. Conde-Salazar L, Gonzalez de Domingo MA, Guimaraens D (1994) Sensitization to epoxy resin systems in special flooring workers. Contact Dermatitis 31:157–160CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Maibach HI (1987) Occupational and industrial dermatology, 2nd edn. Year Book Medical, San Francisco, p 340Google Scholar
  4. Van Putten PB, Coenraads PJ, Nater JP (1984) Hand dermatoses and contact allergic reactions in construction workers exposed to epoxy resins. Contact Dermatitis 10:146–150CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luis Conde-Salazar
    • 1
  • Felipe Heras
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Agustin Alomar
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Servicio de Dermatología LaboralEscuela Nacional de Medicina del TrabajoMadridSpain
  2. 2.Servicio de DermatologíaHospital de la Santa Creu i Sant PauBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Servicio de DermatologíaFundación Jiménez DíazMadridSpain
  4. 4.DermatologíaHospital University Quirón DexeusBarcelonaSpain

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