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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.
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.
I joined Access Legal in 2008 as head of the Personal Injury Team in Birmingham and was made a Partner in 2011. I have been undertaking personal injury work for over 20 years, specialising in industrial disease claims. I only act for the victims of industrial diseases and accidents.View full profile
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Access Legal's approachable and experienced industrial disease lawyers understand the importance of dealing with claims quickly and sympathetically and will work hard to get the help and justice you deserve.Why Access Legal