We performed an exploratory study to evaluate 2 self-administered questionnaires assessing hand dermatitis and investigate a possible exposure-response relationship between dermal exposure to semi-synthetic metalworking fluids (SMWF) and dermatitis. In a cross-sectional survey on dermatitis, a symptom-based questionnaire and a picture-based skin screening list were applied in 80 SMWF-exposed workers and 67 referents. To evaluate the accuracy of the questionnaires, 47 subjects were examined by a dermatologist. Dermal exposure levels to SMWF were assessed on hands, forearms, and face with a observational method that was validated using a fluorescent tracer method. The symptom-based questionnaire had a relatively high sensitivity (0.86) but moderate specificity (0.64), and the skin screening list had a low sensitivity (0.36) and a relatively high specificity (0.84). The skin screening list seemed to represent the more severe cases of dermatitis and showed a significant relation with exposure for dermatitis on hands, forearms, or face. In epidemiological surveys where workers are not seen by a dermatologist, the skin screening list seems to be more appropriate to detect cases of dermatitis, as its higher specificity results in less false positives. Alternatively, it would be preferable applying the symptom-based questionnaire; workers with symptoms should be seen by a dermatologist to identify false positives. © 2007 Blackwell Munksgaard.