When you work for someone, they have a legal duty of care to ensure the environment in which you carry out your job is designed to keep you free from harm. Most discussions around workplace injury claims tend to resolve around accidents, such as tripping or falling due to debris which should have been cleaned away, or being injured by inadequately maintained equipment. However, the nature of some jobs means an ‘injury’ sustained can take the form of an illness or condition which developed over a period of time.
If your employer has been negligent and has failed to take steps which could have prevented an illness developing, you may be in a position to make a claim for compensation. Many of the illnesses in question can have a dramatically detrimental effect upon a person’s life, and receiving compensation can go some way towards getting things back on track.
Diseases caused by working with asbestos
Asbestos is a natural material which was widely used in construction throughout the seventies. Its flexibility and resistance to heat meant it was hugely popular for tasks such as insulating pipes. Unfortunately however, if the fibres from asbestos become loose and are inadvertently breathed in, they can have a highly damaging effect on the lungs. For this reason, the use of asbestos is now prohibited, but the material can still be found in many older buildings, including places such as hospitals and schools.
Anyone working in a building in which asbestos has been disturbed runs the risk of breathing in these dangerous fibres, and should therefore be protected from this possibility. The actual symptoms of diseases caused by asbestos can take up to 40 years to develop, so there’s every chance the current figure of 4000 related fatalities per year could increase. If you suspect you’ve been exposed to asbestos fibres, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Early treatment can lessen symptoms, though there is currently no cure. Asbestos related conditions are grouped under the umbrella term ‘asbestosis’, but similar conditions with different causes include…
Pneumoconiosis including silicosis and asbestosis
Pneumoconiosis is a lung disease which is hugely prevalent among workers from the mining industry. Since the condition is caused by breathing in ultra-fine dust particles however, it can also occur in other industries when the correct precautions have not been taken, for example in potteries, quarrying and foundry work. The problem can develop over time, and there can be a period of up to ten years between exposure to dust and the onset of related disease.
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that predominantly affects the external lining of the lungs in addition to the lower digestive tract. It is strongly associated with exposure to asbestos dust, to such a degree that cases which don’t involve exposure to asbestos are extremely rare. One of the problems involved in diagnosing mesothelioma, and proving it was caused by negligence, is the fact there is usually a large gap between asbestos exposure and developing the symptoms. Indeed, this period is seldom less than 15 years, and can be as long as 60 years. There have been a few cases in which mesothelioma has been caused by exposure to radiation, to Thorotrast (a substance which used to play a part in medical X-rays), or by breathing in dust containing fibres such as erionite, found in volcanic ash. Since there is no link between mesothelioma and smoking, its development can almost certainly be traced back to workplace negligence.
Asthma is a condition which affects many people and can be triggered by a wide range of substances and conditions. Workplace asthma however, differs slightly from ‘natural’ asthma in that symptoms will often be seen to recede following a period away from the workplace. The longer the time spent away from the conditions causing the asthma, the greater the recovery – sufferers will often feel better after a single night’s sleep, much healthier following a weekend away, and almost fully recovered after a longer holiday. These are generalisations, of course, and the particulars of specific cases may vary. If this pattern is applicable to your own health, it may well be you are being harmed while working, and it’s likely you’ve been allowed to breathe in damaging chemicals.
The main symptom of chronic bronchitis is a cough which produces mucus while there is no underlying disease to explain the presence of this ailment (mucus can sometimes be a symptom of the lung disease known as pulmonary emphysema). The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is cigarette smoking, but it can also come about following exposure to industrial dusts and fumes. These contaminants inflame air tubes within the lungs, leading to the constant production of phlegm. This, in turn, can lead to further infections and thus; even more mucus.
What to do if you suffer from an industrial disease
If you’ve developed any of these conditions, the most important thing to do is seek medical attention at the earliest possible opportunity. Not only will this ensure you receive the correct treatment, but an examination will also help to establish whether your condition has been caused by your employer’s negligence.
If your employer has failed to provide protection which would have stopped you becoming ill in this manner, then you may well be able to make a claim for compensation. Call a trained legal adviser on 0800 234 6438, or submit the online claim form, and they will analyse the details of your case and give you an honest answer as to whether you’ve been the victim of negligence. If you have, then they’ll find you an injury solicitor who will build the strongest possible case for compensation, making sure that you have every chance of winning the money which could help you return to normality.