Industrial disease

An industrial disease is an illness which an employee will have contracted during the course of their work duties and often those effects are not known until many years later. An employer will be guilty of allowing an employee to contract an industrial disease if they did not put into place safety mechanisms or processes which would have limited the employee’s exposure to such an environment.

Our experience includes, but is not limited to, the following industrial disease matters:

  • Asthma;
  • Chronic pain;
  • Noise induced hearing loss;
  • Dermatitis; and
  • Hand-arm vibration syndrome or white finger vibration.

Should you think that you have a potential industrial disease claim then please contact us on 01274 924200 or email us at industrialdisease@bakerreign.co.uk and a member of our industrial disease team will contact you.


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Asthma

Asthma is a chronic breathing condition which can cause coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and breathlessness.

When asthma is caused as a result of an employee’s employment this is known as occupational asthma. Occupational asthma can then be subdivided into two types:

  • Irritant asthma – which is caused by exposure to irritants; and
  • Allergic asthma – which is caused by exposure to fumes, dust and other materials.

Employers are under a duty to avoid or minimise the need for employees to work with such hazardous substances. This is pursuant to the Health Regulations 2002 SI 2002/2677.
As long as the claimant is able to prove that the hazardous substance was present at their workplace the duty then falls upon the defendant to prove that they had taken a suitable assessment of the potential risks and that they had sufficient safety measures in place.

It must be noted that as asthma is a common condition proving that the hazardous substance caused the asthma can be problematic. Therefore, evidence needs to be obtained from both the workplace and experts to prove that the asthma that the claimant has is occupational.

Chronic pain

Where medical investigations are unable to find the cause of the pain for the claimant this is referred to as chronic pain. Chronic pain can include:

  • Chronic pain syndrome;
  • Complex regional pain syndrome or reflex sympathetic dystrophy;
  • Fibromyalgia;
  • Somatoform disorder; or
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome.

It must be noted that there is a lack of scientific consensus with regards to the above conditions.
In these types of cases the claimant must show that there is in fact chronic pain being suffered and that it is as a result of a physical injury. This is the case irrespective of any lack of medical explanation. As a result of the lack of a medical explanation the Courts take a measured approach to chronic pain claims.

Noise induced hearing loss

If employees are exposed to prolonged periods of loud noise they can potentially suffer from hearing loss, hyperacusis or tinnitus. Employers are under a duty to ensure that their employees are not subjected to dangerous levels of noise. The statutes which regulate and impose the duty upon the employers to reduce the risk of hearing damage or loss to its lowest reasonably practicable level are the Noise at Work Regulations 1989 SI 1989/1790 and the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 SI 2005/1643.

To bring a successful claim for noise induced hearing loss the claimant must prove that:

  • The levels of noise that they were exposed to were beyond the lowest reasonably practicable levels expected during the course of their employment;
  • That they suffer from a loss of hearing or a hearing related disease; and
  • That this was caused by the occupational noise exposure.

As hearing loss or a hearing related disease can be as a result of the natural aging process is it necessary to obtain expert evidence which proves that the hearing loss was suffered as a result of the claimant’s employment.

A common defence to noise induced hearing loss claims is that of limitation. This is because the hearing loss takes a period of time to develop and sometimes this can be quite a lengthy period. As a result of this it is necessary to establish whether the claimant was actually aware of their condition and that this was as a result of their employment.

If the claimant had worked for multiple employers, which is often the case, then the hearing loss damage award would need to be split between the various employers.

Dermatitis

Dermatitis is inflammation of the skin that occurs when the skin comes in contact with a substance. It usually leads to an allergic reaction and is often caused by a substance that directly damages the outer layer of skin.

Employers are under a duty to avoid or minimise the need for employees to work with such hazardous substances. This is pursuant to the Health Regulations 2002 SI 2002/2677.

As long as the claimant is able to prove that the hazardous substance was present at their workplace the duty then falls upon the defendant to prove that they had taken a suitable assessment of the potential risks and that they had sufficient safety measure in place.

It is necessary to obtain expert evidence to prove that the dermatitis was caused by the claimant coming into contact with the hazardous substance at their place of work. This is in addition to obtaining evidence from the claimant’s place of work. This is needed to prove that the dermatitis was as a result of their occupation and for no other reason.

Hand-arm vibration syndrome or white finger vibration

The operation of vibrating tools can cause hand-arm vibration syndrome which is commonly referred to as white finger vibration. There are duties imposed upon employers to ensure that they:

  • Have undertaken a risk assessment of jobs which require the use of vibrating tools;
  • Mitigate or avoid the need for the use of vibrating tools;
  • Ensure that the daily exposure action and limit values are adhered to;
  • Ensure that employees are provided with appropriate training and warnings before using vibrating tools; and
  • Undertake regular health assessments of the employees.

When pursuing a claim for hand-arm vibration syndrome the claimant must prove that they suffer from this condition as a result of the vibrating tools that they used in the course of their employment and that their employer had knowledge of the risks at the time.

As hand-arm vibration syndrome can develop over a period of time a common defence that is pleaded is that of limitation. If the claimant had worked for multiple employers, which is often the case, then the hand-arm vibration syndrome damage award would need to be split between the various employers.