Workers in all UK industries require protection from foreseeable risk at work. This is particularly true in the case of employees in the printing industry who, without adequate training, personal protective equipment and risk assessments may be exposed to hazardous substances, including chemicals that are known respiratory irritants.
If you work in the printing industry and have suffered a respiratory ailment such as asthma or lung disease and have reasonable grounds to believe that your symptoms have been caused or made worse by your working environment, the specialist lung disease and occupational asthma lawyers at Thompsons in Scotland can help you ascertain your rights in relation to an occupational asthma claim as a result of working in the printing industry.
Isocyanate-based adhesives are moisture-cured adhesives used in the printing industry particularly in laminating processes for food packaging. Isocyanates can cause the sudden onset of asthma or the worsening of symptoms in existing sufferers. Initially, asthma attacks may occur only following exposure to isocyanates. At the first sign of symptoms workers should be moved to another environment in order to reduce the risk of further complications as continued exposure may result in regular and chronic asthma attacks even without exposure to triggers. It is not only respiratory inhalation of isocyanate that is a concern; various studies show that even dermal (skin) contact with the chemical may cause asthma attacks.
Fumes from ink misting, photo processing, UV curing and high speed printing can cause irritation of the respiratory tracts. UV and infra-red curable inks, varnishes and lacquers used in UV curable flatbed inkjet printers have the potential to cause or exacerbate asthma symptoms when the materials turn from liquid to solid. The process releases gases, reactive acrylates and methacrylates. Fume control in the printing industry is essential to keep workers safe.
Employers should always provide adequate ventilation when employees use respiratory irritants in the printing industry. This includes the use of fans and extractors, and air should only ever be extracted to a safe and open space.
Additionally, employers should provide respiratory protective equipment (RPE), including air-fed RPE for use in the case of clean-up operations and spillages.
Employers should also recognise that asthma can develop even when good practice is in place. As such employers should carry out regular health surveillance of at-risk workers to ensure their ongoing wellbeing and prompt diagnosis of any issue or occupational asthma. Lastly, employers should use isocyanate-free products where possible.
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) obligate employers to take steps to control exposure to hazardous materials in the workplace. According to the Health and Safety Executive, this includes the following:
- Identifying which harmful substances may be present in the workplace
- Deciding how workers might be exposed to them and be harmed
- Looking at what measures are in place to prevent this harm and deciding whether enough is being done to mitigate risk
- Providing information, instruction and training
- In appropriate cases, providing health surveillance
Thompsons' Industrial Disease Lawyers
If you have been diagnosed with occupational asthma or lung disease in the last three years and believe it may be attributable to exposure to chemicals while working in the printing industry, Thompsons can help you ascertain your possible right to compensation for your past losses and present and future needs.
For more information about how we may be able to help you make an occupational asthma claim, contact us today on 0800 0891331.