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Occupational asthma is behind 33% of all food industry compensation claims made under the Department of Work and Pensions Industrial Injuries Scheme, with workers from the baking and seafood processing industries the groups most commonly affected.

In fact, among all workers in the UK, bakers have the second highest rate of occupational asthma. This is because flour and grain dusts are known respiratory sensitisers.

Other food industry workers at elevated risk of occupational asthma include millers, malt workers and coopers (those who make wooden casks, barrels, vats, buckets, tubs and troughs). Examples of respiratory sensitisers food industry workers might come into contact with include the following:

  • Egg protein
  • Fish protein
  • Insect products
  • Enzyme products
  • Storage mites
  • Mould
  • Fungi
  • Latex
  • Isocyanates
  • Plants
  • Wood dust

However, it is worth remembering that there are more than 250 known asthma sensitisers, and with many more not yet recorded or properly understood, it is likely that the food industry is responsible for a greater number of new asthma cases than is currently reported.

Understanding Risks in the Food Industry

Wherever possible employers must take steps to minimise or to eliminate any work practice or substance that is known to cause occupational asthma. However, it is not always possible to remove the causative agent altogether. In such cases, employers must adapt their processing practices and, where appropriate, improve ventilation, extraction and the use of protective equipment.

Furthermore, health and safety scientists have recently developed new technologies to detect aerosolized flour and seafood allergens (ultra-fine particles present in the air) so, wherever possible, intervention should be taken at the earliest possible stage to reduce the impact on workers' long-term health.

In recent years employers have been provided with new ways to reduce symptoms and manage incidences of occupational asthma among workers. These include offering workers Specific Allergen Immunotherapy (SIT) or the monoclonal antibody omalizumab which helps reduce allergic symptoms.

COSHH Regulations

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations lay down certain obligations for employers in relation to potentially harmful substances, including respiratory sensitisers.

As such, COSHH demands that employers do the following:

  • Assess relevant health risks
  • Prevent exposure, if reasonably practicable
  • Control exposure, if prevention is not possible
  • Dust monitoring, health surveillance, examination of plant, employee training

Occupational Asthma Lawyers in Scotland

More than five million people in Britain have been diagnosed with asthma, and as many as 25% of these may have developed the condition as a result of workplace conditions.

If you have been exposed to sensitising dust or another substance in your workplace and believe that this may be a factor in your diagnosis, the specialist lung disease lawyers at Thompsons Scotland may be able to help you claim compensation for your pain, suffering, lost earnings and expenses.

We know that making a claim for work-related food asthma in the food industry can seem daunting, but as an experienced and nationally recognised firm, we can lead the way, providing you with support, advice and guidance throughout the process.

For more information, call us today on 0800 0891331.

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