Decline in occupational asthma cases myth debunked?
The Royal College of Physicians has published guidance urging all hospital doctors to enquire into the occupation of patients that suffer with respiratory problems. This is in light of the staggering estimates that 1 in 6 asthma patients of working age have had their condition caused or aggravated by work.
In 2011 it was reported by HSE that there were a total of 148 new occupational asthma cases although other sources report that the real figure could actually be ten times higher. People most at risk of developing occupational asthma are those who work with and are exposed to hazardous substances. The HSE guidance on hazardous substances explains that ‘Hazardous Substances can include dusts, gases or fumes that you breathe in, or liquids, gels or powders that come into contact with your eyes or skin’
Substances that can cause you to develop occupational asthma or irritate your pre-existing asthma can be found in almost anything including paints, cleaners, flour dust, solder fume, blood or waste.
Employers have a duty to their employees to ensure that they reduce the risk of their employees coming in to contact with these substances by preventing any exposure or by ensuring that any such exposure is adequately controlled.
The new guidance that has been published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine advises doctors to contact employers to make them aware of their employee’s diagnosis and advise them of the reasonable steps that an employer can take to prevent further exposure.
Dr Paul Nicholson, lead author of the guidance, said: ‘Highlighting the prevalence of occupational asthma is absolutely key, as too often work-related factors are overlooked leading to unnecessary delays in proper investigation and management. When a patient displays signs of asthma, doctors should be enquiring about the patient’s job, the materials they work with, and whether their symptoms improve regularly when away from work.’
The team at Roberts Jackson firmly believes that there is not enough awareness and advice made available for occupational asthma sufferers which is having a significant effect on the declining figures. As the number of cases reported every year is in decline, the number of people claiming for the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit for occupational asthma has stayed at a fairly steady rate, contradicting the drop in reported cases.
Roberts Jackson Solicitor, Samina Shah has said “It is very important to promote the awareness of occupational asthma particularly for those employees who are smokers or asthmatic, as they tend to dismiss any symptoms they suffer from as being work related. We predict that this new guidance will help to raise awareness and most likely to lead to a significant increase in the number of occupational asthma cases. We suspect that a large proportion of the cases to be brought will relate to exacerbation / aggravation of pre-existing asthmatic or respiratory conditions”.
If you suffer with any respiratory condition that you believe is being caused by your work or a substance you work with, speak to Roberts Jackson for some free legal advice 0800 001 4496.