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Occupational Asthma Compensation Claims

Asthma isn’t just an illness you’re born with, asthma can be brought on by exposure to certain hazardous substances. So, if you’ve developed work related asthma, you could be eligible to make an occupational asthma claim.

Occupational asthma compensation claim

Occupational asthma is a respiratory disorder that occurs when workers are exposed to certain substances. The symptoms of occupational asthma can range from mild to severe. If you think think you might have occupational asthma, see your doctor right away, and then call 0800 234 6438 to speak with a trained legal advisor and start your occupational asthma compensation claim today.

Whilst compensation for industrial disease claims used to be difficult because courts would try to assess blame in terms of employer negligence rather than the amount of exposure that an individual had received before their condition manifested itself, new legal precedents have now been set which make it easier for workers suffering from these debilitating diseases to claim the compensation they deserve.

Rather than try to pinpoint a specific incident for when the individual was exposed to the hazardous substances, because there is no way of knowing if an individual’s condition resulted from a specific incident or from cumulative exposure over time, courts have started to find in favour of individuals with occupational asthma compensation cases where it can be shown that their symptoms began after only one or two incidents of exposure. This makes it easier for you to prove negligence on behalf of your employer, as well as demonstrating that your condition was not caused by any other factors such as stress or smoking.

If you’re wondering if you have a claim for occupational asthma compensation, the first step is to understand what exactly it is.

What is occupational asthma

Occupational asthma is a type of industrial disease. While there is no universal definition of occupational asthma, the general understanding is that it’s an adult asthma that has been caused by exposure to hazardous substances at work.

Work related asthma is usually divided into two broad types:

  1. Allergic occupational asthma
  2. Irritant induced occupational asthma

The first one accounts for most occupational asthma cases, and typically has a latency period between initial exposure to the asthma trigger and the onset of asthma symptoms.

The second one usually occurs within a period of a few hours following exposure to an irritant such as a gas, fume or vapour in the workplace.

According to the British Thoracic Society, occupational exposure to hazardous substances accounts for approximately one in six cases of asthma in adults.

However, according to the Health and Safety Executive, the overall incidences of occupational asthma (across all occupations or all industries) was on average 0.56 cases per 100,000 workers per year in recent years.

That number varies with industry. For example:

  • Process, plant and machine operatives – 2.1 per 100,000
  • Skilled trades occupations – 1.9 per 100,000
  • Vehicle paint technicians – 42.4 per 100,000
  • Bakers and flour confectioners 35.5 per 100,000

Occupational asthma symptoms

Occupational asthma, also known as work-related asthma, is caused by exposure to workplace irritants that trigger an allergic reaction in your lungs. This usually happens when you breathe in dust or chemicals at work.

Unfortunately, it can take years for symptoms to appear after you start working with these substances – which means the damage may already be done before anyone realises there’s a problem.

Here are some of the most common symptoms of occupational asthma:

  • Coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Breathing difficulties (difficulties can vary from mild to severe)
  • Chest tightness, chest pain, and a tight feeling in your chest
  • Sweating or flushing (reddening) of skin around the face and neck

How do I know if I have occupational asthma?

If you think you may have occupational asthma, it is important to contact your doctor. The symptoms of occupational asthma are similar to those of regular asthma and include wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and coughing. In some cases, the symptoms can be mild and not require medical attention; however, these same symptoms could also be a sign of an allergic reaction or other serious health problem.

What causes occupational asthma?

Occupational asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition of the airways that develops in response to exposure to workplace agents. Your airways become inflamed and narrow due to exposure to hazardous substances, making it difficult for you to breathe, resulting in coughing, wheezing and breathlessness.

According to Health and Safety Executive, the most commonly cited cause of occupational asthma by chest physicians in the last few years, has been flour/grain and isocyanates.

However it can also be caused by exposure to other hazardous substances including:

  • Dusts from hay or moldy grain
  • Solid particles from wood products such as sawdust or particle board
  • Gases such as chlorine used in cleaning chemicals and hydrochloric acid
  • Fumes from cleaning solvents (such as benzene) or paint thinners (such as trichloroethylene)
  • Fumes from metals or organic chemicals, oils
  • Oils found in petroleum-based products like hydraulic fluid for hydraulic systems in heavy equipment like forklifts
  • Gases produced by welding operations using metals such as nickel alloy steel alloys containing chromium carbide layers on the surface which react with oxygen at high temperatures producing harmful particulate matter

Other triggers can include things like animals, dust mites and fungi.

When someone with asthma comes into contact with these triggers at work, they’re likely to develop symptoms such as coughing and wheezing due to inflammation of the airways (bronchitis). Saying that, the causal mechanisms of occupational asthma vary from substance to substance.

Employer’s duty of care

An employer has a legal responsibility to provide a safe working environment for their employees. Employers must ensure that the workplace is free from hazards, provide information about any potential risks in the workplace (such as chemicals or dusts), and about how you should tackle those risks if they arise.

They should ensure that equipment and tools are properly maintained, and that employees are trained to safely use them. They also need to make sure that you as an employee know what is expected from you, so they should keep proper records of your tasks, and train or retrain you if necessary, and make sure that your health is protected throughout your employment.

A safe working environment means:

  • Ensuring good ventilation in the workplace.
  • Minimise exposure by avoiding using strong chemicals and other irritants in the workplace.
  • Providing workers with personal protective equipment, such as masks or gloves, if they are exposed to toxic substances in their work environment.
  • Educating workers on the risks associated with their job tasks and any materials they come into contact with at work, so that they know what precautions to take when performing certain tasks.

If you believe your employer’s negligence in their legal of duty of care led to you developing occupational asthma, you may be entitled to claim compensation.

Occupational asthma compensation claims can be complex due to a variety of contributing factors but it’s worth noting that even where an employer has done everything they can reasonably do to protect workers from harm, a claim may still be possible if there were failures in risk assessment or control measures put in place.

To find out more about making occupational asthma claims, speak to a trained legal advisor for free on 0800 234 6438. If they believe you have a claim, they will partner you with expert occupational asthma solicitors who will help you make a successful occupational asthma claim.

How to prove occupational asthma

To prove negligence and claim compensation for occupational asthma it must first be established that your employer failed in their duty of care towards you as an employee.

This means they should have made sure that you were not exposed to anything in the workplace which may cause injury e.g. asthma. So how do you prove that your work caused occupational asthma?

In order for your claim to be successful, it needs to be established that your employer failed in their duty of care towards you as an employee. Your employer should have been aware of the risk of occupational asthma, and taken steps to protect you from exposure to substances which may cause asthma.

They should have provided you with appropriate protective equipment, such as a mask or respirator, and training in how to use it safely.

Am I eligible to make an occupational asthma claim?

To be eligible to make an occupational asthma claim you and your personal injury solicitor need to prove:

  • That you were exposed to certain hazardous substances at work
  • That the substance (s) were a known cause of occupational asthma
  • That the exposure caused your asthma or made it worse
  • That your employer failed to protect you from working in an environment which caused or contributed to you developing occupational asthma

Your solicitor will likely send you for medical tests to get a medical report that confirms your asthma is occupationally-related and caused by your workplace environment.

The most common tests used to confirm occupational asthma include:

  • Allergy Testing
  • Pulmonary Function Tests (PFTs)
  • Skin Prick Tests (SPTs)

Can I claim occupational asthma compensation?

If you have been diagnosed with a chronic lung condition such as occupational asthma as a result of exposure to toxic chemical substances or other hazardous substances at work, you could be entitled to claim compensation.

Your employer has a legal duty of care to ensure your health and safety at work, and if they’ve failed or been negligent in their duty, and you’ve suffered as a result, you could be eligible to make an occupational asthma compensation claim.

Time limit for occupational asthma claims

Like most personal injury claims, there is a time limit in which you have to make your claim. In most cases, you need to submit your claim within three years of developing occupational asthma, or finding out that your asthma has worsened because of conditions at work.

There are exceptions to the three year time limit, and these include, but aren’t limited to:

  • If you began working at 16, but developed occupational asthma while still under 18, in which case an adult can make the claim on your behalf.
  • Alternatively, you have three years from your 18th birthday to submit a claim.
  • There is no time limit if you’re claiming on behalf of someone who has lost the ability to claim compensation for themselves.

Why seek occupational asthma compensation

If you’re suffering from occupational asthma, whether you have mild asthma symptoms, or it’s a severe impairment, you should seek work related asthma compensation. That’s because if you’ve developed asthma, it’s not something that is going to go away.

Asthma can have an impact on your quality of life, preventing you from doing the things you once loved doing, or being able to work. And it’s not fair that you should have to suffer physically, mentally or financially because someone else failed in their legal responsibility to keep you safe at work.

Occupational asthma compensation payouts will help you cover any losses that you’ve accrued as a result of your workplace injuries. That includes loss of earnings, or paying for treatment either now or in the future. Not only that, but by making a claim, you’ll help raise awareness and hopefully prevent anyone else at your workplace having to go through what you’re going through.

How much compensation could I get?

It’s hard to say exactly how much compensation you could receive as each personal injury claim is unique. However, the amount you could be awarded will depend on:

  • The severity of your asthma;
  • The impact this disease has had on, or will likely impact your quality of life, including your physical and mental health, and your financial wellbeing.

For an idea of how much compensation you might be eligible to claim for, the Judicial College Guidelines gives rough estimates as to what you might receive, based on previous compensation claims.

For example:

  • Mild persistent asthma – £9,080 to £16,380
  • Chronic asthma – £24,680 to £40,370
  • Severe and permanent disabling asthma – £40,410 to £61,710

Make an occupational asthma claim on a no win no fee basis

If you developed industrial asthma as a result of someone else’s negligence, you have every right to claim compensation. To find out how to start the claims process, call 0800 234 6438 for free legal advice. If they believe you have a case, they will partner you with personal injury solicitors who are industrial disease experts. Your solicitor will work with you on a no win no fee basis.

This conditional fee agreement is a risk free way of pursuing the maximum compensation, without having to pay any of the legal costs should your claim be unsuccessful. If you do win, you’ll pay the legal fees and a pre-agreed percentage of your settlement out of your compensation monies.

If you develop asthma at work and it’s not your fault, you have nothing to lose by claiming compensation and potentially a lot to gain.

Other Important Information

*No Win No Fee

  • Although all our cases are handled on a no win no fee basis, other costs could be payable upon solicitors request. These will be fully explained to you before you proceed. Most customers will pay 25% (including VAT) of the compensation they are awarded to their law firm, although this may vary based on individual circumstances. Your solicitor may arrange for insurance to be in place for you to make sure your claim is risk free. Termination fees based on time spent may apply, or in situations such as: lack of cooperation or deliberately misleading our solicitors, or failing to go to any medical or expert examination, or court hearing.
  • *Criminal Injury Claims

  • If you want to make a claim for a criminal injury, you are not required to use the services of a claims management company to pursue the claim. You can submit your claim for free on your own behalf, directly to the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority (England, Wales, and Scotland) or the Criminal Injury Compensation Scheme (Northern Ireland).
About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

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