Facts about Industrial Disease

Employers in any industry bear a responsibility to protect their employees not only from accidents at work, but also from diseases and chronic conditions that either result from their work or are exacerbated by it.

Where employers fail in this responsibility, and their employees suffers as a result, compensation claims provide a way to recoup lost earnings as well as gain financial assistance towards their recovery.

The first industrial disease to be recognised, in 1775, was a type of cancer which affected young chimney sweeps due to their exposure to soot. This contributed to acts of Parliament designed to stop child labour, and its identification by Sir Percivall Pott was the first time that such a malignancy was understood to have been caused by an environmental carcinogen.

Early industrial diseases like chimney sweep’s carcinoma, “phossy jaw”, which affected London’s matchgirls in the 19th century, and radium jaw which affected workers painting luminous dials onto watches in the 1920’s are no longer common issues. However, more recent industries have given rise to different industrial diseases, and thanks to the workers’ rights which are in place today those suffering from these illnesses have a right to compensation which their ancestors did not.

Asbestos was in fairly common use until its ban in 1999, despite reports from as early as 1898 demonstrating its health risks. Inhalation of asbestos fibres can lead to pleural thickening and mesothelioma – but as symptoms often do not show for many years after the initial exposure, many workers who were exposed to asbestos in the 1970s are only now realising the impact of the exposure and seeking compensation.

Asthma is a common respiratory disease which has increased greatly in the last 20 years; it can be caused or aggravated by a wide range of substances as varied as prawns, wood dust and hairspray. This means that a huge range of occupations are at risk. Where asthma is caused – not simply aggravated – by substances at work it is classified as occupational asthma, and the sufferer may be able to claim compensation if their employer was at fault.

Other common industrial ailments today include chronic back pain, often caused by heavy lifting with inadequate training or equipment, deafness, tinnitus or loss of hearing caused by working around heavy machinery with inadequate hearing protection, and vibration white finger; a painful loss of sensation in the fingers that results from the use of high-vibration power tools. Office workers can also be at risk from repetitive strain injury caused by use of VDU equipment.

Blackwater Law have an experienced team of specialist industrial disease solicitors, so if you suffer from any of these conditions and would like to make an industrial disease claim, contact us today for a professional and sympathetic service.