One overlooked Industrial Disease is Occupational Asthma, generally noted as a disease which develops after exposure to and as a direct result of, amongst other things, gases, fumes and dust and other substances within the workplace. Asthma can of course occur naturally, perhaps due to a genetic predisposition or air pollution. Occupational Asthma shares the common symptoms, such as wheezing, chest tightness and coughing.
Although modern Health & Safety is much improved, even in 2021 many workers develop Occupational Asthma as a direct result of their employment and working conditions. Unacceptable and inadequate working practices remain all too common, including a lack of ventilation, protective equipment and risk assessments. Whilst insecure working conditions often mitigate against the ability of workers to communicate their concerns, it must be remembered that primary responsibility for the safety and well-being of an employee rests with their employer.
Early identification of Occupational Asthma is key to ensuring the right medical care is provided in a timely fashion. Without exposure to the triggering substances, Occupational Asthma can often regress and disappear. However, later exposure to the same substances can often see a return of the condition, so even a relatively minor case can have implications for future employability.
Alternatively, prolonged exposure to triggering substances can result in more serious symptoms that, potentially, can last for many years and may even be permanent.
The Health & Safety Executive’s own website (www.hse.gov.uk) lists in excess of 40 substances that can potentially cause or contribute to the development of Occupational Asthma, and its own statistics suggests the true number of new cases annually is likely to be an underestimate.
A claim against an Employer must be grounded by medical evidence prepared by a Consultant Chest Physician, confirming a diagnosis of Occupational Asthma and confirming the causal link with the relevant workplace.
Should you wish to discuss the possibility of an Occupational Asthma claim, please do not hesitate to contact Jonathan Duncan on 028 9181 1538.
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