What is occupational asthma?

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Asthma is a very common respiratory condition which affects over 5.4 million people in the UK. Asthma has a variety of different causes including genetics, hay fever, living conditions and exposure to harmful substance in the workplace (occupational asthma).

What is asthma?

Asthma is a long-term condition that affects the airways, making them more sensitive. It causes symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and breathlessness.

Those who suffer from asthma have their own personal triggers and symptoms. If you come into contact with one of your asthma ‘triggers’, it can make these symptoms worse and even bring on an asthma attack.

There is currently no cure for asthma, but there are many effective treatments which are widely available to sufferers.

What is occupational asthma?

Occupational asthma is type of asthma which is caused, or worsened by, exposure to harmful substances in the workplace. Some examples of harmful substances in the workplace that cause symptoms of asthma include gasses, vapour, dusts and fumes.

Symptoms of occupational asthma include general symptoms of an asthma attack, such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulty. You may also notice eye irritation, nasal congestion, and/or runny nose. Occupational asthma can be allergy-related or an irritant reaction.

Generally, if your asthma symptoms are worse on days that you work but improve when you are at home for any length of time (weekends, vacations) then occupational asthma should be considered.

Common examples of occupational asthma

Common examples of agents, which cause asthma, include:

  • Latex (health workers breathing in the powdered proteins from the inner lining of latex gloves)
  • Animal dander
  • Flour dust
  • Ammonia
  • Diesel fumes

Occupational asthma and your employer’s duty

Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002, your employer is under a duty to reduce exposure to harmful substances to as low as reasonably practicable.

Under the COSHH Regulations, an employer should consider the following eight steps to reduce the risk from harmful substances in the workplace:

  1. Identify any substances in the workplace which could cause a hazard to health;
  2. Undertake a risk assessment of the substances
  3. Consider whether any control measures can be implemented to reduce harm (such as PPE, ventilation, enclosure of process etc.)
  4. Implement/enforce the use of any control measures identified
  5. Ensure equipment and PPE is kept in good working order
  6. Provide information and training to employees regarding the risk to health from certain substances
  7. Provide health monitoring of employees where appropriate
  8. Plan for emergencies

Essentially, if you are exposed to any substances which are potentially hazardous to your health, your employer should ensure you are provided with suitable PPE, ventilate the area (where possible) and provide you with training on the risks to your health. If your employer has failed to do any of these things, and you are suffering from asthma because of workplace exposure, then you may have a claim against them for damages.

How we can help

If you believe that you are suffering from occupational asthma as a result of your employment and/or a lack of care from your employer, our specialist industrial disease solicitors can help you to start a claim. To get in touch, call our personal injury lawyers on 0117 325 2929 or fill out our online enquiry form.


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