Industrial Disease

Industrial Disease covers a range of illnesses and conditions that are caused by dangerous working conditions or exposure to harmful substances in the workplace. It is an employer’s responsibility to provide all reasonable protective clothing and equipment in order to prevent harm to employees, particularly if they are aware that working conditions are potentially dangerous, or that a hazardous substance is being used. Some conditions can take many years to take effect, but if you have a condition that may be related to your work, our solicitors can help you to establish a link between current or previous employers, and make a claim for compensation. If someone close to you has been affected or passed away from an industrial disease, we can also help you to make a claim on their behalf. We specialise in dealing with the following illnesses and conditions.

      Respiratory Conditions

There are many types of respiratory conditions, such as asthma, asbestosis, silicosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma, emphysema, and bronchitis. Working in an environment with a lot of dust or fumes can cause these conditions to develop or make an existing condition worse, with effects varying from irritation to the throat and mouth to severe breathing difficulties, reduced lung capacity, and disability. The most common causes of respiratory conditions relating to the workplace include the following.

  • Working with asbestos
  • Fibres from textiles, wool or grain
  • Particles from pottery and ceramic work
  • Metal particles from welding or grinding
  • Dust from cement or brick manufacturing
  • Dust and particles from construction and tunnelling
  • Dust and silica from mining coal, gold, granite, iron and steel

 

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      Repetitive Strain Injury

Repetitive Strain injury (RSI) is a painful condition in the muscles, nerves, or tendons caused by doing a particular activity repeatedly or for a long period of time. This can affect any part of the body with symptoms including aching, stiffness, tingling, numbness, weakness or cramp. There are two main types of RSI based on the type of symptoms that are suffered.

Type 1 RSI – where a doctor can diagnose a recognised medical condition from the symptoms, such as swelling and inflammation. These include tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, rotator cuff syndrome, and Dupuytren’s contracture.

Type 2 RSI – where a doctor cannot diagnose a medical condition because the symptoms are not consistent with a recognised condition, there is no actual inflammation or swelling, or the pain does not stay in one area. This is also known as non-specific pain syndrome.

Common causes of RSI include working with repetitive actions, carrying out an activity for a long period of time without rest, consistent physically intensive activity such as heavy lifting, working in an awkward position, working in cold temperatures, or use of vibrating equipment. This can affect anyone, from people working in offices and using computers to those carrying out manual tasks such as working on a production line.

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      Vibration White Finger

Vibration white finger (VWF) is a condition caused by exposure to vibration beyond normal levels, which causes damage to the blood vessels and nerve endings in the fingers. The main symptoms are aching, pain, tingling, numbness, pins and needles, and whitening of some or all of the fingers.

VWF is most commonly caused by operating vibrating machinery and power tools such as pneumatic drills, jack hammers, chain saws, grinders, sanders, strimmers, power drills, and rock drills, and mostly affects people working in forestry, construction, roadwork, and engineering. The vibration in these tools causes minor injuries to nerves and blood vessels, and as these build up over time, vibration white finger is developed. Other conditions which can be related to vibration white finger include hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) and carpal tunnel syndrome.

If you are diagnosed with vibration white finger, then as well as making a claim for compensation against your employer, you may also be entitled to Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit or incapacity benefit.

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      Dermatitis

Dermatitis, meaning ‘inflammation of the skin’, is a type of Eczema that can be caused by a skin reaction to a substance. The main symptoms are redness, itchiness, scaling and stinging of the skin, as well as rashes and blisters. The two types of dermatitis are allergic contact dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis - this is an allergy that develops when your immune system becomes sensitised to a substance that you have come into contact with. As it is an allergy, it may affect all areas of your skin and there may also be a delay in the rash developing, from a few hours to days. Common causes of allergic contact dermatitis are nickel, cobalt, cosmetics, additives used in leather or rubber, preservatives used in creams or ointments, and plants.

Irritant Contact Dermatitis - this is caused by direct contact with a substance that irritates the skin and most commonly affects the hands. The symptoms only occur on the area of contact, and usually develop within the first 48 hours. There are many irritant substances that can cause dermatitis, including detergents such as washing-up liquid, soaps and bleach, solvents such as petrol and oil, acids and alkalis such as cement, and certain plants.

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      Hearing Loss and Tinnitus

Hearing loss, or industrial deafness, can be caused by long term exposure to excessive noise or a one-off acoustic trauma, which can cause irreparable damage to the parts of the ear that are used for hearing. Damage to hearing does not always occur straight away, and may affect people who have worked in noisy environments many years later.

Tinnitus is a specific hearing condition whereby a person can hear sounds coming from inside their body rather than an outside source. This is normally described as a ‘ringing’ but can also include other noises such as buzzing, humming, hissing and whistling. Although tinnitus is not harmful and usually improves over time, it can affect concentration and sleep, and has also been known to cause depression.

Hearing protection is now commonplace in most noisy work environments. However, health and safety laws were not as effective in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, and although employers were aware of the dangers of working in noisy environments, many did not provide appropriate ear protection. Most people accept hearing loss as part of old age, but people who have worked in noisy environments may actually be suffering from work related hearing loss. The most common industries for causing hearing problems are construction, engineering, shipbuilding, mining and quarrying, textiles, manufacturing, and aviation, as well as working in power stations, factories, nightclubs, and call centres.

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      Substance Exposure

There are strict regulations in place to ensure that workers are protected from exposure to potentially harmful chemicals and substances, including the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations. However, employees can still be affected in some cases if employers do not take appropriate protective actions, or substances that have been used in the past are still present in certain products and environments. Common harmful substances that people may be exposed to at work include Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), organophosphates, solvents, toluene, and carbon monoxide, as well as poisoning from chemicals such as mercury, Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK), hydrocarbons, dioxins, benzene, and chromium.

      Cancer

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Cancer is one of the most common illnesses in the UK and comes in many different types and forms. Although it can be difficult to determine the exact cause of cancer, it is well known that there is a link between certain types of cancer, and occupational exposure to carcinogenic substances, such as asbestos, arsenic, silica, radon, and pesticides. Carcinogens can take the form of liquids, vapours, gases, solids and dusts, and damage can be caused by inhaling or swallowing them, or allowing them to come into contact with the skin. If a carcinogenic substance has to be used in a workplace, there are strict regulations in order to protect workers, such as the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH). However, health and safety laws have not always been so effective, and some types of cancer can take many years to develop. The most common types of cancer caused by the workplace are lung cancer, bladder cancer, nasal cancer and skin cancer.

Lung cancer - Lung cancer is often caused by working with asbestos, or in an environment containing asbestos. There are also other known occupational hazards, including silica dust, arsenic dust or vapours, and radiation.

Bladder cancer - A common cause of bladder cancer is working with aromatic amines, which are widely used in the manufacture of paints, plastics, paper, textile and hair dyes, drugs, and pesticides. This can affect people working in the chemicals sector, paint production, plastic and rubber manufacture, gas works, and dye production. Bladder cancer has also been found to occur following exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are by-products of combustion processes, and may therefore affect a range of industries.

Nasal Cancer - Work related causes of nasal cancer include exposure to and inhalation of wood dust, glues, formaldehyde, solvents used in production, nickel and chromium dust.

Skin Cancer - Skin cancer can be caused by exposure to chemicals such as polycyclic hydrocarbons, inorganic metals, and arsenicals. It can also be caused by burns, exposure to ultraviolet light, or ionizing radiation.

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If you have any questions or would like to talk with us or arrange a free initial telephone consultation, please call us now on 01344 512370 or email: enquiries@ascotlawyers.co.uk.

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