Occupational Asthma Compensation Claims

Have you developed Asthma due to your working environment?

If, you have been diagnosed or believe you are suffering from either Occupational or Work Related Asthma then you could be entitled to claim compensation from your employer under their Employer's Liability Insurance.

Simpson Millar LLP has a specialist Team of dedicated solicitors who are highly skilled in dealing with asthma compensation claims and can discuss your individual case and concerns with you with no-obligation for you to pursue the matter further.

Work Related Asthma - Industrial Illness Claim

Key Information:

What is occupational asthma?

Occupational asthma is an allergic reaction that can happen in certain people if they are exposed to substances, eg wood dust or flour at work.

Some substances can cause airways to become sensitised. However, just because someone has become sensitised does not mean that they will develop a breathing related illness. People should be aware that once the lungs become hypersensitive, any further exposure to such substances, even at relatively low levels, could trigger an asthma attack.

It can be frightening and distressing to suffer from an asthma attack and in severe cases prompt medical attention may need to be sought.

Occupational Asthma is the most common form of occupational lung disease arising from current exposures in the workplace. In 2007 the Government estimated that each year between 1,500 and 3,000 people in Great Britain develop the condition. This rises to 7,000 cases a year if you include asthma made worse by work.

What is Work Related Asthma?

This is asthma that is made worse due to your working environment and lawyers often distinguish this separately from the type of asthma caused by work (occupational asthma). The substances known to be involved in this condition form a wider category and include substances at work that aggravate the airways of anyone with pre-existing asthma eg including people who have had this condition since birth. Respiratory irritants can bring on attacks in anyone with occupational or pre-existing asthma.

Examples of substances that can irritate existing sufferers are general dust, chlorine, and in some cases cold air.

The Health and Safety Executive have published a list of substances that are known to cause occupational asthma which can be downloaded from their website.

What are the symptoms of asthma?

  • coughing
  • wheezing
  • tightening of the chest, and
  • difficulties in breathing.

Who is most at risk of developing work related/occupational asthma?

The groups of workers most at risk of inhaling these substances include:

  • bakery workers
  • carpenters and wood workers
  • cleaners
  • farm, dock and cotton workers
  • lab workers
  • nursing and care staff
  • catering workers
  • spray painters, and
  • woodworkers.

Exposure

Prolonged or repeated exposure to these irritants can result in chronic asthma. This is a condition whereby symptoms increase in severity and are less likely to be helped or reversed even with strong asthmatic medication or removal from the workplace environment.

What duties do employers have?

Employers are under a statutory duty to control an employee's exposure to fumes, dust and impurities including those that can cause asthma. These duties are now embodied within The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations. Breach of these regulations can form the basis of a claim for damages and compensation.

Under COSHH:

  • employers are required as part of their duty to undertake an assessment of the health risks caused by hazardous substances, and
  • if they are identified, to take steps to assess the level of exposure and to institute prevention measure
  • if prevention is not possible then to reduce exposure to as low a level as possible and then restrict exposure through implementing systems of ventilation and/or extraction
  • if the use of a substance can not be reduced then employers should provide personal protective equipment

Employers are also under a duty to operate a system of health surveillance to ensure that control measures are used and maintained and employees are suitably aware of the relevant risks and preventative measures involved when working with hazardous materials.

Employers must monitor their employee’s exposure to such materials on a regular basis and ensure that employees working with hazardous substances are informed of the symptoms and risks of occupational asthma and asked to report any symptoms immediately.

Despite the legal duties many employers do not fully execute their duties under the regulations resulting in employees being exposed to hazardous materials.

Is there a time limit for claiming compensation?

Any asthma compensation claim must be made within 3 years of the date you knew or ought to know you were suffering with the condition and therefore it is imperative that you seek legal advice as soon as possible.

Case Example

Worker exposed to toxic chemical fumes

Mr F worked for almost 20 years as a manual processor for a metal plating company. During the course of his employment, Mr F was exposed to toxic fumes released through the mixing of various chemicals including acid, cyanide and caustic soda that were involved in the plating process. Mr F was not provided with any protective masks or other breathing aids and inevitably inhaled in a great deal of these fumes and smoke on a daily basis. He developed severe breathing difficulties and was diagnosed with asthma caused by his extensive exposure to the toxic fumes. Mr F’s medical condition became permanent and he was unable to continue in his employment.

Mr F contacted Simpson Millar LLP Solicitors who pursued a claim on his behalf. Despite the company going out of business, the relevant insurers were quickly identified. Vital witness evidence was gathered and presented to the insurers. Shortly after, the insurers admitted fault and a settlement of the claim was achieved.

Make an asthma compensation enquiry

Call our solicitors today on freephone: 0808 129 3320 or use our free, no obligation, online enquiry form to register for a call back to discuss how and if we can help you make an asthma compensation claim.


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Gavin Evans | Partner &  Head of Industrial Disease | Simpson Millar LLP

Gavin Evans
Partner & Head of Industrial Disease

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