Emphysema linked to coal dust exposure, not just a smoker’s disease

Emphysema linked to coal dust exposure, not just a smoker’s disease
Emphysema linked to coal dust exposure, not just a smoker’s disease

Emphysema linked to coal dust exposure, not just a smoker’s disease

Emphysema linked to coal dust exposure, not just a smoker’s disease
The outlook for the coal mining industry in the UK is not looking good, to the say the least, with media outlets across the country reporting more mine closures and job losses. However there were still over 6,000 miners working in the UK as of 2004 (ref 1). It is a notoriously dangerous industry to work in with the alleged health risks including deafness, vibration white finger and a number of respiratory diseases.

Exposure to coal dust is being allegedly linked with Emphysema, a condition that has usually only affected smokers. Recent reports (ref 2) from a regional newspaper suggested that an ex miner has passed away due to exposure to coal dust, and a possible cause of death was emphysema, even though he had never smoked in his life.

Emphysema link to work

Emphysema is a condition not commonly known to affect the workforce, and is more commonly diagnosed amongst smokers. However with this news coming to light, Roberts Jackson Solicitors firmly believe that diagnosis of emphysema and other respiratory conditions (such as COPD) require further investigation by GPs and occupational health professionals.

There are still numerous mines open in the UK, meaning that claims for these conditions and causal links between coal dust and respiratory conditions are likely to increase in the coming years. There are, of course, many more industries that could be causing conditions not commonly related to work. Welders, hairdressers and bakers are some of the most common industries that can cause breathing problems, but how many of these are being linked with work?

Coal Miners and work related illness

Miners are not only at risk of respiratory conditions, but a whole range of other conditions that are compensable. Vibration White Finger is common due to the use of heavy hand tools when working on the coal face. Tools such as jackhammers and windy picks are largely to blame and through prolonged use can cause damage to a miner’s hands, in turn creating a secondary form of Raynaud’s disease (ref 3) for the sufferer.

Hearing loss is very common condition amongst miners due to the confined work environment and machinery that is operated in these spaces. Conditions like hearing loss are known as “long tail” conditions, meaning that it could take years for the symptoms to present since the last known exposure to excessive noise. Due to this, miners with hearing loss caused in the 1960s can still claim for hearing loss now.

Other common conditions that can affect miners are beat knee, carpal tunnel and back strain. However these conditions are usually “short tail” diseases as the causal link between work and the development of these conditions is usually immediate, and this can make it hard for historical claims to be brought as there are time restrictions on claims for compensation.

If you do suffer from one of these conditions, all is not lost. There are state benefits available which, if you are eligible, may result in payments of £30 a week or more for your condition. For more information on what benefits could be available to you, please visit our Industrial Injury Disablement Benefits page here and download the forms from the government website here.

Contact us for free legal advice

If you currently work as a miner, or have done in the past, and wish to discuss any issues mentioned in this article, our specialist advice team are available Mon-Fri 9am-5pm on 0800 001 4496, or alternatively request a call back on the right hand side of this page and we will call you back as soon as possible.

[1] http://www.ncm.org.uk/docs/collections-documents/statistics-in-mining.pdf?sfvrsn=2
[2] http://www.staffordshirenewsletter.co.uk/Rugeley-grandfather-s-death-caused-industrial/story-22046194-detail/story.html
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raynauds