Is Work Leaving You Breathless?
According to recent HSE statistics, there has been a gradual decrease in number of reported cases of Occupational Asthma since 2000. However this does not mean that work related asthma is no longer a problem. Often people suffering from work related asthma do not realise that their symptoms have been caused or aggravated by the environment they work in.
So what exactly is Occupational Asthma?
Asthma is an inflammatory disease of the lungs and airways. The small airway tubes (known as bronchi) become more sensitive than normal and can lead to difficulty in breathing, wheezing, coughing and a tight chest. Occupational Asthma is an allergic reaction that can affect individuals when they are exposed to certain substances known as ‘respiratory sensitisers’ or ‘asthmagens’.
If you are suffering from asthma and are exposed to the following substances in your working environment, you could be suffering from Occupational Asthma:-
- Egg protein
- Fish protein
- Flour dust
- Hardwood dusts
- Reactive dyes
- Various metal dusts and compounds
- And many more other substances
How do you know if you’re suffering from Occupational Asthma and not just constitutional asthma?
If your asthma is work related, you will usually find that your symptoms ease during your days off or when you’re abroad on holiday. If you have left employment recently or have been given a new role which does not involve coming into contact with the substances, you should also start to notice your symptoms getting better.
Occupational Asthma can be prevented but effective prevention requires full co-operation between employees and employers – therefore you should bring it to your employer’s immediate attention if you suffer from Occupational Asthma.
What can employers do:-
- Remove the substance from the workplace. If this is not possible, they should try and substitute it with a less hazardous substance
- Control the exposure of the substances by installing effective ventilation systems
- Carry out risk assessments and implement safe work practices including rotation of roles in order to minimise employees’ exposure to the substances
- Provide effective personal protective equipment such as a face masks
What you as an employee can do:-
- Bring it to your employer’s immediate attention if you start to suffer from asthma which you suspect is work related
- Use the PPE provided by the employers and ensure you follow company safe work practice policies and procedures
- Report any problems with your PPE or ventilation systems to your employer
- Be aware of the hazards in your workplace and raise any concerns to your employer, H&S officer or Trade Union so that the problem can be dealt with
Occupational Asthma is a serious illness. It is therefore important that it is recognised and treated at an early stage and that you seek medical advice as soon as any symptoms transpire.
If you believe your employer has failed to prevent or reduce the development or aggravation of your asthma, please do not hesitate to contact Roberts Jackson Solicitors on 0808 252 5504 for free initial legal advice.