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Home » Latest News » Occupational Asthma - Is it possible to make a compensation claim?

Occupational Asthma - Is it possible to make a compensation claim?

Occupational Asthma - Is it possible to make a compensation claim?

Asthma affects the airways to the lungs. Asthma sufferers’ airways become inflamed, causing them to narrow as the muscles surrounding them tighten, swelling occurs in the lining and mucus starts to build up. This leads to symptoms of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightening and a dry cough.

Asthma can be quite a debilitating condition. It can have various triggers from pets and household dust, to cold weather or exercise. In most cases asthma can be controlled by the use of inhalers. In 2016 nearly 1,500 people died following an asthma attack, and there are currently 5.4 million people being treated for the condition.

What is Asthma?

Asthma affects the airways to the lungs. Asthma sufferers’ airways become inflamed, causing them to narrow as the muscles surrounding them tighten, swelling occurs in the lining and mucus starts to build up. This leads to symptoms of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightening and a dry cough.

An asthma attack is the most severe outcome. Extreme difficulty breathing as ever more constricted airways occurs. In this scenario you should always seek emergency medical treatment.

What is occupational asthma?

Employers have a duty of care which includes keeping their employees safe at work. This extends to making sure that workers are not exposed to harmful gases, chemicals or other dangerous airborne particles, which may cause asthma or other lung or chest conditions to their workforce.

For employees that are at risk of exposure to chemicals, dust or other particles by breathing in, by skin contact or by swallowing, their employers should constantly keep check of the risks. There should be a system of surveillance to check for signs of poor health in their employees. If they suspect that someone may be suffering from a work-related illness, they should take immediate action to protect that employee.

If the employer does not take reasonable steps to protect their workers sufficiently and occupational asthma is the result, then the employee may have a claim for occupational disease.

There are two forms of occupational asthma;

1. Irritant Induced

This is caused by a single high-exposure to the substance. This type of exposure could be an accident, such as a breakdown that releases irritant into the air. Symptoms usually appear quickly and may disappear just as quick. If symptoms persist beyond six months this indicates there is a problem.

2. Allergic

This is when a person develops an allergy to the substance over a period of time. It is the most common cause of occupational asthma and leads to the majority claims. It may not take hold immediately as symptoms may present slowly when exposed to the substance. It may even take years before asthma develops.

If the employer quickly recognises and eliminates the risk, the health of the employee should return to normal. Continuous exposure will reduce the chance of recovery. Usually occupational disease claims are made after many years of working in an environment where they were exposed to the substance.

Who can get occupational asthma?

The Health and Safety Executive report in October 2018 estimated that every year there are 20,000 self-reported cases of “breathing or lung problems” caused, or exacerbated, at work.

Those most obviously at risk of occupational disease are asthmatics. Their illnesses may get worse as a result of their exposure to particles to which they are allergic in their workplace. This is often known as ‘work aggravated asthma’ and falls under the heading of ‘work related asthma.’

‘Occupational asthma’ is caused by exposure to substances in the work environment to those who did not previously have an asthma diagnosis. This also falls under the heading of ‘work related asthma.’

These are some examples of substances that are known to cause a possible risk:

  • Flour, grain and other dusty foodstuffs
  • Dust mites
  • Sawdust
  • Solder fumes
  • Isocyanates (chemicals found in paint and varnish)
  • Henna
  • Cow epithelium/urine – dust from cow hair and dander
  • Bromelains – an aid to indigestion and inflammatory agent
  • Carmine and some other reactive dyes
  • Cobalt dust (diamond polishing and hard metal production)
  • Nickel sulphate
  • Azodicarbonamide – used in the rubber and plastics industries

The workplaces or occupations, in which workers are most at risk of developing asthma as a result of inhaling substances that trigger the disease are;

  • Bakers and flour confectioners
  • Workers in the metal production industry
  • Food manufacturing
  • Chemical manufacturing
  • Motor vehicle production, paint technicians and sprayers
  • Farming and agriculture industry
  • Hospitals
  • Pet shops, zoos and animal laboratories
  • Welding and soldering

How do I make an occupational asthma claim?

If you believe substance exposure at work may have caused, or contributed to, your asthma, a claim for occupational asthma compensation may be possible. Leanne Keating and James Burrell, from Bridge McFarland have many years’ experience with occupational asthma claims. They are experts in all forms of occupational disease compensation claims. If you believe you have got a claim for occupational or work-related asthma , call 01482 320 620 or e-mail enquiries@bmcf.co.uk.

Initial advice is free. In most cases your claim will be handled on a “No Win, No Fee” basis. This means that if you don’t win the case, then you won’t have anything to pay.