Unfortunately, there are many different types of occupational illnesses that can be contracted whilst in employment. If you, or a relative, have been affected by a condition as a result of a work environment, there is the potential to claim compensation.
Background on industrial injuries and diseases
Industrial diseases and illnesses are often very serious conditions with equally serious implications on an individual’s quality of life. In the UK there are certain measures in place to crack down on the number of industrial hazards but unfortunately, these procedures do not make cases any less frequent. According to Health and Safety Executive statistics, there were 1.2 million people last year who believed they were suffering from an illness or condition as a result of an industrial disease they contracted from their job.
Facts about industrial illnesses and injuries
Many people who are living with an illness through no fault of their own are unaware of their right to seek compensation. It is often incorrectly presumed that all workplace compensation claims are in relation to sudden accidents e.g. trips or falls.
Employers Liability is compulsory insurance which employers must have in the event of an employee’s accident or illness. In addition, your employer has a legal duty to protect its employees from potentially harmful situations which could result in an industrial illness. E.g. if you are working with dangerous chemicals or substances then your employer should find alternative ways of working or if this is not possible, they should supply protective clothing or equipment. If this has been provided then it is the responsibility of the individual to wear it. Health and Safety Laws are also set out by the government but not all companies meet these guidelines.
Also, it is not unknown for businesses to have ceased trading or the company has changed owners before your case has been lodged. In the majority of cases, as long as insurance was in place at the time of the injury, your claim will be covered.
Schemes are set up by some insurance companies for organisations who receive a lot of the same type of compensation claims. As well as the Industrial Diseases Compensation Scheme there are other programmes set up by the government. For example, The Department of Trade and Industry Coalheath Compensation Scheme was set up to assist the large number of people who suffered lung disease as a result of working for the coal board.
What are the most common types of industrial injuries and diseases?
Asbestosis and cancer
Asbestos is still the number one killer when it comes to industrial related illnesses, despite all efforts to minimise it. The material began life as an extremely useful substance because of its fire resistance, malleability and accessibility (it can be mined for). However, it became apparent years later that the fibres within asbestos were very dangerous when inhaled and can induce asbestosis; when lung tissue is scarred. It can also trigger cancer growth once the lungs have been affected.
Asbestos usage in UK industry is now strictly forbidden but its legacy is noticeable by the steady flow of industrial compensation cases and the approximate 3000 deaths which occur each year as a result of exposure to the deadly material.
Claims made regarding asbestos reveal that a long time can pass between contact with asbestos and the onset of symptoms.
Dirty and extremely sooty workplace surroundings can cause the onset of occupational asthma. There are a lot of working environments which cause asthma including the farming, baking, cleaning and gardening industries as well as oil refineries, textile workplaces and chemical trades.
The terms occupational deafness and noise-induced hearing loss can also be used in conjunction with any type of effect a workplace has had on your hearing ability.
Loud and persistently noisy working areas with no access to hearing protection are the main cause of severe hearing problems. According to the Health and Safety Executive, there are around 1 million people at risk of industrial deafness because of the conditions they work in. Further demonstrating how prevalent industrial deafness is, are the one hundred and seventy thousand people who are currently classed as having serious hearing loss as a direct result of the noise levels in which they work and the lack of hearing protection.
Despite these eye-opening statistics and the legislation that is in place, there remains a high incidence of claims for this type of industrial condition.
Vibration White Finger
Vibration White Finger is a well-known industrial disease also recognised as HAVS (hand-arm vibration white finger) affecting joints in the arm and wrist, blood vessels and nerves. Tens of thousands of people are known to suffer from the illness which is characterised by fingers or hands exhibiting a distinctly white appearance, a tingling sensation in those areas and a loss of fine dexterity. If you are using or have used powered, hand-held machinery which produces between 5 – 150 Hz then you are most at risk.
Repetitive Strain Injury
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) has fallen into popular medical vernacular due to its frequent occurrence. Alternative names for RSI are work-related upper limb disorder (WRULD) or occupational overuse syndrome. All amount to the repeated overuse of hands, arms, elbows, shoulders or fingers affecting the muscles within them. The tissue damage in the muscles causes pain which can be constant or intermittent. It often doesn’t appear until some time after the strain has happened and with time, the condition can worsen.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Like RSI, Carpel Tunnel Syndrome has become an established form of occupational disease over recent years, mainly because it is such a common condition. In a work environment, the causes can include using a keyboard every day or working at a sewing machine or on a conveyor belt. Sufferers experience numbness and tingling in their hands and fingers because there is pressure on a major nerve in the wrist (the median nerve).
Those working in the farming industry who regularly come into contact with substances such as hay, grain or straw are most vulnerable to this allergic respiratory disease. When hay or straw are stored in unventilated areas, mould spores are generated and become airborne by attaching themselves to dust particles which then become breathable by farm workers. Coughing and sneezing ensue as a way of trying to combat the alien particles in the body but often they can enter the blood stream and can cause lung tissue to scar permanently. Pneumonia-type symptoms can then begin.
The examples above are not exhaustive and there are more industrial related illnesses which are prominent in compensation cases. Metal Fume Fever, Silicosis, Contact Dermatitis and Eczema are all well-known illnesses for which individuals have successfully received compensation.
How does the claims process differ in industrial cases?
Usually, individuals have 3 years from the date of an accident or injury to seek compensation but because of the traits of many of the aforementioned illnesses, there are exceptions to this rule, particularly on occasions where diseases have taken years to come into the foreground.
Linked to this is the fact that former employers dating back many years may have moved on, thus making the claim process more long-winded. Furthermore, in industrial illnesses and disease claims, there are more official regulations set out by the government and these need to be adhered to by personal injury lawyers which in some instances can mean a slightly lengthier process.
Our personal injury lawyers’ knowledge and proficiency are second to none in all areas of industrial illnesses and conditions. If you believe you may have suffered a disease of this kind then please contact us and rest assured you are in capable hands.
We can help with a range of claims types which could come under the industrial illnesses category. These are listed on the left-hand side of this page. Please feel free to contact us if you would like information about making a claim for any other kind of occupational disease.