If you employer doesn’t put acceptable measures in place to prevent you from developing work-related asthma, or to protect you from exacerbating a pre-existing asthma condition, you may be able to claim compensation.
Your employer should:
- Conduct risk assessments
- Report cases of occupational asthma to a central point
- Protect employees from the processes linked to the risk of asthma
- Provide respiratory protective equipment where necessary and provide training on the use of such equipment
If you think you have developed occupational asthma or your asthma has been made worse by your workplace, get in touch with our Industrial Disease Solicitors to find out if you can claim compensation.
What is Occupational Asthma?
Asthma is a lung condition that causes breathing difficulties. But with occupational asthma, the asthma will have been caused by someone's working environment. Exposure to certain airborne substances can cause asthma which often develops following several months of exposure but may develop more quickly.
Work-related asthma can also be the exacerbation of a condition that already exists. It’s common for people to assume the cause has come from elsewhere rather than their place of work.
Common Causes of Occupational Asthma
Substances that cause occupational asthma are known as asthmagens. They don't appear in all workplaces and some industry employees are more at risk than others due to the nature of work they carry out.
There are two types of occupational asthma - allergic occupational asthma and irritant induced occupational asthma.
Allergic Occupational Asthma
Allergic occupational asthma is the more common of the two and is caused by the person having an allergic reaction to allergens in the workplace.
Jobs with the highest rates of allergic occupational asthma include:
- Vehicle spray painting – isocyanates
- Baking – flour dust
- Woodwork – sanded or machined wood dust
- Soldering – rosin-based fumes
- Healthcare - latex
- Working with animals – animal fur, feathers, dried urine, saliva dusts, animal faeces
- Agriculture – grain dust, bacteria, endotoxins, mites, animal faeces, plant dust, soil, feed, chemicals
- Engineering – metal working fluids
- Hairdressing – bleach (persulphate)
Irritant Induced Occupational Asthma
Irritant induced occupational asthma is less common, but has the same outcome as allergic occupational asthma. This sort of asthma usually develops after an accidental chemical spillage in the workplace.
The types of irritant chemicals that can cause irritant-induced occupational asthma include:
Symptoms of Occupational Asthma include:
- A tight chest
Asthma symptoms typically include wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. Symptoms may sometimes become temporarily worse, causing an asthma attack, and vary in severity from person to person.
If you do have any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek professional medical advice. A GP will be able to discuss with you what could be causing your asthma and they may be able to help you determine if you’re at risk at work.
Is there a Way to Prevent Occupational Asthma?
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) requires employers to minimise exposure to substances that could cause asthma, to protect their employees' health. They must assess the risk of exposure and consider the substitution of harmful substances with ones that are less harmful.
If you’re developing signs of asthma, you should speak with your employer to see if changes can be made to your job to make it safer for you.
You should also:
- Avoid contact with the substance that’s triggering asthma symptoms
- Take medicines for asthma as prescribed
- Fill in an asthma action plan with your GP or asthma nurse that will tell you what to do if your asthma becomes exacerbated
Making a work-related asthma claim can be complex, and it’s important to gather evidence of your breathing condition and employment history.
Our Industrial Disease Solicitors have many years’ experience of representing clients with work related asthma and can provide a specialist approach to compensation claims.
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