Occupational asthma claims
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Occupational asthma is a type of asthma that is caused by the continuous inhalation of certain chemicals and irritants in the workplace.
Often the symptoms of occupational asthma may become noticeable within a few weeks or months of the exposure to irritants, while in some cases it can take years for the symptoms to manifest themselves. This depends on the individual, as well as type of substance they are exposed to at work.
These substances – which are also referred to as respiratory sensitisers – are inhaled and then affect the lungs, resulting in common symptoms like shortness of breath, a tightness of chest, coughing and wheezing – all caused by the airways narrowing. Continued exposure to the harmful substances can lead to the individual suffering from chronic asthma.
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Causes of occupational asthma
Below we take a closer look at some of the most common causes of occupational asthma.
Occupational asthma caused by working with chemicals
The leading cause of occupational asthma in the UK are chemicals known as Isocyanates.
People who regularly work with spray paint, in factories or as mechanics are particularly at risk, as these harmful chemicals tends to be used in the manufacture of paints, adhesives, metals casting, foam moulding and varnishes.
If you work with these substances then there should be safety measures in place at your workplace that adhere to health and safety regulations. If you have developed occupational asthma from inhaling these harmful chemicals at work then you could be entitled to make an occupational asthma compensation claim.
Occupational asthma caused by working with latex
Another common cause of occupational asthma is the dust produced from latex rubber.
Natural rubber latex is commonly used in the production of rubber gloves, which are worn a lot in the healthcare sector. However it is becoming more common for such gloves to be required in other professions such as the police force and cleaning companies.
Latex gloves don’t need to be worn for them to be potentially harmful, as the dust is released and spread throughout the surrounding area. Subsequently, anyone who works in an environment where latex gloves are commonly used could be at risk.
As well as gloves, latex is used in the manufacture of other medical equipment such as catheters, stethoscopes and intravenous tubing.
Occupational asthma caused by working with flour
It may seem harmless enough, but the regular exposure to flour dust in actually the second most common cause of occupational asthma in the UK – whereas in France it is believed to the top cause.
This is also referred to as 'Bakers Asthma', for obvious reasons, although anyone working in kitchens and flour mills are also at risk.
Occupational asthma caused by working with grain
As with flour, the seemingly harmless grain dust can also cause occupational asthma. When grains are harvested, dried and processed the resulting dust can be very harmful to those handling it.
Those employed in the agricultural industry, as well as food factories, breweries and flour mills are most at risk of developing occupational asthma – along with anyone involved in the transportation of grains.
Occupational asthma caused by working with laboratory animals
We’re all aware that those who suffer from asthma can have attacks triggered by exposure to animal hair, but the constant inhalation of this hair can also be a cause of asthma.
Fur and feathers are a leading cause, but surprisingly dried urine and saliva can also contribute to occupational asthma as they all contain dust that is rich with animal aero-allergens.
Occupational asthma caused by working with enzymes
Some enzymes that are used in the processing of food as well as the manufacture of detergents and cleaning products can also cause occupational asthma.
Subsequently people who work in factories where these products are manufactured, as well as those who work in places that use them on a regular basis e.g. bakers, warehouse workers, hospital and cleaning staff are at a high risk of developing occupational asthma.
Can I make an occupational asthma compensation claim if I already suffer from asthma?
In a word, yes.
If you already suffer from asthma, then working in a high-risk environment like one of those we have listed above can exacerbate your condition.
There are extensive regulations in place to limit your exposure to harmful substances in the workplace – known as COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations) – so if it is found that your employer has not followed these and you have either contracted asthma, or your existing asthma has been made worse, then you could be entitled to make a claim for compensation.
Should you wish to make a claim, there is a time limit from the day of diagnosis of three years in which to do so. This time limit is not from the time you were exposed to the hazardous substance.
If you would like to discuss making a compensation claim for occupational asthma with a qualified member of our team, then please contact us. If we can pursue your occupational asthma compensation claim, we will do so on a no win no fee basis.
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