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Nickel Dermatitis

I run a captive-nickel plating shop. Is there some type of a test for allergies to nickel—nickel dermatitis—that can be administered prior to hiring an individual for my shop?
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Q. I run a captive-nickel plating shop. In the past I’ve had problems with employees developing allergies to nickel—nickel dermatitis. Is there some type of a test for this allergy that can be administered prior to hiring an individual for my shop? P.D.

A. The only test that I am familiar with is the classic patch test used by allergists when attempting to diagnose an individual’s allergies. In this test, a patch that contains a potential allergen is applied to the skin. If after a set period of time a red area develops under the patch, the assumption is made that the patient is allergic to that material.

The problem with this type of test, particularly in the case of nickel dermatitis, is that the allergic reaction may not develop until after the individual has been in contact with the allergen for a period of time.

I don’t know if there is a procedure that will allow you to let an employee go without legal ramifications if he/she develops this allergy. I suggest you consult with an HR specialist and determine if some type of clause can be written into the terms of employment. 

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