Asthma can be debilitating and in severe cases may even prove life-threatening. Although the respiratory condition can be caused by general health or "constitutional" factors, in many cases it is triggered as a result of exposure to certain stimuli – for example certain chemicals or irritants, or dust, fumes, smoke or organic substances.
Furthermore, those with "constitutional" asthma may have their condition aggravated or worsened as a result of workplace exposure to respiratory sensitisers. It is thought that occupational factors account for one in six cases of asthma in adults in the UK.
In a minority of instances, employees may experience a form of sudden onset asthma known as RAD (Reactive Airway Disease) caused by hyper-reaction to high dosage exposure to workplace chemicals or irritants.
Whatever your circumstances, if you have been diagnosed with asthma in the past three years and have reasonable grounds to believe that the condition may have been caused or aggravated by exposure to chemicals in your workplace, the specialist personal injury lawyers at Thompsons can help you claim compensation for your pain, suffering, lost earnings and medical expenses.
Common Causes of Occupational Asthma
According to statistics derived from SWORD (Surveillance of Work-related and Occupational Respiratory Disease) and IIDB (Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit), vehicle paint sprayers, bakers and flour confectioners are the workers at most risk of occupational asthma in the UK.
The organisations report that the following are the most common chemical causes of occupational asthma in the UK workforce:
- Isocyanates: Vehicle spraying, foam manufacturing, isocyanate-based glue manufacture, printing and laminating, etc.
- Cleaning products: Care homes, hospitals, laboratories, food industry etc.
- Hardening agents: Construction, woodworking
- Flour, grain and hay: Dock workers and the food industry
- Soldering flux: Electronic assembly
- Epoxy glue and resinsEpoxy resin manufacture and the laminate flooring industry
- Enzymes: Detergents and flour conditioners
- Metals: Platinum, chromium and nickel sulphate are just three examples
Chemicals that Cause Occupational Asthma – an Exhaustive List
The Health and Safety Executive has produced a list of the chemicals that cause occupational asthma. This can be found here. From Alpha Amylases used in milling and bread baking to Trimellitic Anhydride used in the production of wall and floor coverings – if you work with chemicals which may cause occupational asthma, they are likely to be featured on this list.
The Two Types of Occupational Asthma
There are two major types of occupational asthma. These are as follows:
- Irritant-induced occupational asthma: Caused by one or several clustered incidences of high exposures to an irritant substance in the workplace – e.g. gases or vapours from chemicals such as chlorine or ammonia.
- Sensitiser-induced occupational asthma: Caused by a hypersensitivity or allergic response following repeated exposure over a period of months or years.
Assessing the Risks
According to the British Occupational Health Research Foundation, employers have a responsibility to meet certain obligations when their business uses sensitisers and chemicals.
These include the following:
- To assess risks and decide on any necessary precautions
- To prevent and minimise exposure by elimination or substitution
- To use engineering controls such as enclosure and extraction whenever necessary
- To supply personal protective equipment (PPE), respiratory protective
equipment (RPE) and appropriate training
- To use and maintain control measures
- To monitor exposure
- To provide health surveillance of at-risk groups
Furthermore, under The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) employers owe employees a raft of obligations in relation to chemicals that may prove hazardous to respiratory health in the workplace.
Occupational Asthma Solicitors in Scotland
Thompsons works right across Scotland to help claimants secure compensation for any illness they have developed as a result of conditions in their workplace. Our specialist personal injury solicitors can help you begin your claim for occupational asthma from chemicals today.
Contact us on 0800 0891 331 for more information.