Occupational Asthma Claims

Occupational asthma can be triggered by exposure to dusts, gases, fumes, vapours and chemicals, in particular isocyanates. Asthma symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing and painful coughing. Furthermore exposure may sensitise the lungs so that even a small exposure will trigger an attack.

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Occupational asthma is an allergic reaction that can occur in some people when they are exposed to substances called 'respiratory sensitisers' or 'respiratory irritants'.

These substances can include stainless steel fumes and chemicals like isocyanates, found in paints and varnishes and heavily used in the automotive and autobody repair industry. Many trades are affected including bakers, spray painters, solderers, woodworkers, welders and engineering workers.

They are also quick to sensitise the respiratory tract. Once a person becomes sensitised, they go on to become hypersensitive and even very low levels of the irritant will trigger a full blown asthma attack.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations requires employers to prevent or control exposure to hazardous substances to protect employees' health. There is also a specific Approved Code of Practice for the control of substances that cause occupational asthma.

Your employer has a duty to protect your health and safety at work and should comply with the requirements of those regulations, including providing appropriate respiratory protective equipment and regular health surveillance. If they have failed in that duty, you are perfectly entitled to bring a claim against them.

I want to know

How do I make an occupational asthma claim

If you think your employer hasn’t complied with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations, ignored the Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) relating to occupational asthma, or failed to protect your health and safety at work, you should first seek medical advice and then contact a specialist law firm such as Access Legal.

These claims can be complex and demanding, so it's important that your legal team specialise in this work and have good, established, relationships with the appropriate medical and other experts whose evidence will be crucial to your claim.

Getting medical help is not only essential to determine what treatment and rehabilitation you might need, but also gives us the evidence we need to show that you have a recognised and diagnosed condition on which to proceed with your claim.

For a claim to have any prospect of success there needs to be a diagnosis and a causative link between the condition and the nature of your work, irrespective of any pre-existing medical conditions. There are strict time limits within which you must claim, but if successful your claim will help compensate for any loss of earnings, especially if you cannot return to work.

It is sometimes possible to get legal advice through your trades union, which may have arrangements in place with a specified panel solicitor. You are not obliged to use the firm proposed and can ask any law firm to represent you in these cases.

If I have an occupational asthma case

There is a strict time limit of three years (with a few exceptions) in making these claims against your employer, so you must act quickly if you think you may have a case.

Establishing causation (linking the asthma directly to your work) is crucial in these cases. The individual who complains of the condition has to prove, on the balance of probability, that their employer was at fault and that caused the condition.

You will need to show that you were exposed to a substance that is known to cause occupational asthma and that your employer failed to provide you with the correct safety equipment, that it was faulty or you were never given adequate instructions, information or training on how to use it. Employers are still obliged to comply with the appropriate regulations and take other preventative measures, such as making sure that your working environment is well ventilated and carrying out regular health checks.

Failing to do or provide these things suggests your employer has failed to meet their legal duty of care. If we can prove their negligence and you have suffered illness as a result, you will have a claim for industrial asthma. Access Legal's expert occupational asthma lawyers will listen to your story to see whether you have a case.

We will always find ways to help you, including No-Win-No-Fee, so don't worry about the cost and don't be put off seeking our help because you are concerned about your future employment. The law protects employees who make a valid claim.

More about occupational asthma claims

The highest incidence of occupational asthma occurs among bakers and vehicle paint sprayers. Flour dust in particular seems almost as potent an irritant as isocyanates. Isocyanates are also involved in the manufacture of flexible and rigid foams and building insulation materials as well as spray-on polyurethane products.

The onset of occupational asthma can be almost instantaneous, although in some cases it can take anything from six to 12 months to become sensitised to a substance before symptoms such as shortness of breath, tightness in the chest and wheezing become apparent.

These cases can be aggressively defended, with the other side citing pre-existing conditions, but none of those arguments relieves an employer of their liability if they did not provide protective equipment or take precautions in order to prevent the harm you suffered.

If your employer exposed you to a substance known to be hazardous to your health and that breach of duty caused (or materially contributed to) your occupational asthma, you are within your rights to make a claim for the reasonably foreseeable losses you suffered as a consequence of their negligence.

Occupational asthma government help and benefits

There are a number of state benefits available to people suffering from occupational asthma. Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) provides for payment of weekly benefits to people who are suffering from certain diseases contracted in the course of certain types of employment.

These diseases are referred to as 'prescribed diseases' and are listed in regulations issued by the Secretary of State. The scheme covers more than 70 illnesses, including asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, but you can’t claim IIDB if you were self-employed.

You can get more information about what you may be entitled to and how to claim IIDB by calling the Department for Work and Pensions Benefit Enquiry Line on 0800 882 200 or visiting the gov.uk website.

Benefit entitlement starts from the date you contacted the DWP, not the date you contracted the disease or got a diagnosis, so it's important not to delay calling them. You may also be entitled to Disability Living Allowance if you need assistance with personal care or getting around.

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Occupational Asthma Claims

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