If an occupational illness has set you back, we'll help you move forward
Occupational asthma, triggered by workplace irritants, can lead to coughing, wheezing, and breathlessness, impairing your ability to work and your quality of life.
If your life, or the life of a loved one, has been affected by occupational asthma, we can help. If your injuries were caused by your employer, you may be able to claim compensation to cover medical treatments like inhalers and steroids, and cover lifestyle adjustments required due to the condition. You could also claim for loss of earnings and any other costs or expenses incurred as a result of the injury.
You can make a work accident compensation claim with the help and support of a personal injury solicitor.
In this article
With almost 20,000 new cases of work-related lung conditions each year, you are not alone
Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition and causes a narrowing of the bronchial walls. Commonly triggered by dust, pollen and exercise, asthma is also the subject of compensation claims for workplace-related illness following exposure to allergens or chemicals found in the work environment.
Every year there are an estimated 19,000 annual new cases of occupation-related breathing or lung problems (hse.gov.uk).
If you decide to make an occupational asthma claim, your work accident solicitor will take you through every step of the claims process. Your solicitor will be with you until you win your claim and get the compensation you need to move forward.
Am I entitled to make an occupational asthma claim?
In general, you can claim compensation if you were hurt:
- in the last 3 years,
- by someone elses actions or negligence, and
- they owed you a duty of care.
Find out online if you can claim with our injury claim calculator. Or you can call 0800 376 1001 to speak to a specialist advisor. Find out in minutes if you have a claim.
How long after an occupational asthma diagnosis do I have to start a claim?
An injury claim will usually need to be made within 3 years of the date or your accident or injury.
If you were injured due to someone else's negligence but didn't realise it at the time, the clock starts ticking from the 'date of knowledge' - the day you become aware of your injury.
How much compensation can I claim for occupational asthma?
The amount of money you could claim for your injury will depend on:
- the seriousness of your injury, and
- any financial losses or costs you have incurred.
At the start of your claim, your solicitor will consider the many ways your injuries have affected your life. Your solicitor will take these considerations into account to calculate the correct compensation award.
Get an accurate compensation estimate (including for multiple injuries), confirm your legal position, and check if you have a No Win, No Fee claim.
Updated December 2023
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General damages are awarded for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (PSLA).
Awards for general damages are set by the Judicial College and published in their guidelines for personal injury awards.
Special damages are awarded to compensate you for any costs or losses you've incurred or might incur as a result of your accident. These costs might include lost earnings, or any other out of pocket expenses.
Special damages may also be awarded for medical treatments or procedures that you might need to treat your occupational asthma, including inhalers, steroids, bronchodilators and avoidance of triggers.
Industries with the most asthma-related claims
Occupational asthma can occur in a range of industries. However, the HSE report that the manufacturing industry has the highest incidence of occupational asthma (3 cases per 100,000 per year). Manufacturers of motor vehicles, food products and basic metals are identified as having the most cases.
What substances cause occupational asthma?
Isocyanates and flour/grain are recognised as the agents responsible for the highest proportion of new cases of occupational asthma and exposure to these substances is frequently cited in claims.
Isocyanates are widely used in the manufacture of foams, fibres and coatings such as paints and varnishes. Vehicle paint technicians have the highest incidence rate. For flour/grain exposure, bakers are most commonly affected.
Other common agents known to cause occupational asthma include:
- Wood dusts
- Stainless steel welding
- Laboratory animals
- Hardening agents
- Cleaning products
- Cutting oils and coolants
Diagnosing occupational asthma
The severity of asthma symptoms varies from person to person. In many cases it is controllable, whilst in others more persistent problems including a permanent narrowing of the bronchial walls can occur.
Asthma symptoms can gradually or suddenly get worse leading to an asthma attack.
Asthma caused by work factors falls into two main categories:
- Allergic occupational asthma - this is seen in the majority of cases and typically occurs a period of time after exposure
- Irritant-induced occupational asthma - typically occurs a few hours following exposure to high levels of gas, fume and vapour
Diagnosis is not always straightforward, particularly in allergic occupational asthma. This is because the symptoms - which include coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and breathlessness - are similar to a range of lung diseases.
The injury claim medical report
A medical report confirming the asthma diagnosis will be a key piece of evidence in support of a claim. This report will be arranged by the claimant's solicitor.
An independent doctor will ask questions regarding work and medical history, recent symptoms and family history of asthma or allergies. The doctor may also carry out lung function tests.
If asthma is diagnosed and considered to be the result of workplace exposure, a solicitor can advise on the next steps.
The law regarding occupational asthma
Occupational asthma is a preventable condition, and the responsibility to take all reasonable steps to prevent it lies with the employer.
Under the Health and Safety and Work etc. Act 1974, employers have a legal duty to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their employees. This includes carrying out a risk assessment of the workplace and putting in 'reasonable' measures to protect staff from any dangers.
More specifically, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002 (COSHH) requires employers to manage exposure to dangerous substances where they cannot be removed or substituted - which includes chemicals and allergens.
If an employer fails to do any of the following, and a person develops occupational asthma as a result, this may amount to negligence. The employer must:
- Minimise the emission, release and spread of substances known to cause or potentially cause asthma
- Ensure adequate air filtration systems are installed and maintained
- Provide suitable personal protective equipment (PPE), such as breathing apparatus
- Provide staff training on the risks and how to effectively apply the controls
- Continually review the risks and update procedures as required
A solicitor can advise on what evidence would be needed to prove negligence. This evidence will usually include medical reports and an employer's health and safety records.
Employers' liability claims claims
Work-related illness claims are also known as employers' liability claims. Click on the icons below for more information:
How we can help you with your work accident claim
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Paul Carvis, Personal injury solicitor
About the author
Paul is a member of the Law Society Personal Injury Panel, a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, and has served as a Deputy District Judge, giving him a uniquely broad understanding of the claims process.