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Occupational hazards and what you can do about them

In 2018 and 2019, the Health and Safety Executive reported that 1.4 million workers have reported that they are suffering from work-related ill health. With both respiratory and skin conditions causing millions of workers pain and discomfort, seeking compensation with help from industrial disease solicitors can be an important part of treatment and recovery.

What is occupational asthma?

Occupational asthma is a breathing problem that is caused by the inhalation of dangerous substances that are present in your workplace. If you are regularly exposed to ‘asthmagens’ at work, then your symptoms will quickly become problematic.

In the same 2018/19 study, the Health and Safety Executive released estimates as to how many occupational lung diseases contributed to overall annual deaths. With 12,000 of annual deaths caused by lung diseases, this was then further divided up into specific types of the disease. These were:

  • 33% – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • 23% – Non-asbestos related lung cancer
  • 20% – Asbestos related lung cancer
  • 20% – Mesothelioma
  • 4% – Other disease

These figures can seem concerning, but the right safety precautions can limit the exposure to asthmagens. Workplaces should be well ventilated, and you should always be provided with adequate PPE and be able to take plenty of breaks away from the work floor.

Your occupational asthma symptoms may be more noticeable while you are working, but your symptoms may get better when you are away from your workplace.

What is occupational dermatitis?

Occupational asthma is not the only condition that you may be at risk from in an unsafe working environment. Occupational dermatitis is the inflammation of skin that has come into contact with certain hazardous substances or other elements of your working environment. It is not contagious, so it can’t spread from one person to another. It is most commonly found on the hands, because this is the most exposed part of the body that you will be using as you work. Additionally, it is the part of the body that is most likely to come into contact with dangerous substances that you may be required to touch.

Dermatitis can present itself in a number of different ways. For example, your skin may show:

  • Redness and dryness
  • Scaling and flaking of the skin
  • Blistering, cracking or weeping of the skin
  • Swelling skin
  • Itchy skin
  • Rashes on the skin
  • Blotchiness of the skin

Substances that can trigger dermatitis are also known as causative agents. Examples of causative agents can be:

  • Flour
  • Cement
  • Bleaches
  • Paints
  • Glues

Your employer should always provide you with the adequate protection that is needed to avoid developing or triggering dermatitis.

What should my employer do to protect me from occupational hazards?

In any workplace, there is a law that means that your employer has a duty of care that they must fulfil for you. This means that anyone who enters the workplace has to be reasonably protected from any harm that may befall them. In order to achieve this aim, a number of things must be done. These things include:

  • Giving all employees information about the risks that are in their workplace and how they are protected, in addition to instructing and providing training on how to avoid them.
  • Consulting employees on health and safety issues. This can be a direct consultation or conducted through a safety representative who has been elected by the workforce or appointed by the trade union.
  • Carrying out regular risk assessments that address all potential causes of harm in the workplace.

Whether you are suffering from occupational asthma or dermatitis, the right legal advice can help you to get the compensation that you deserve.

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