How Does This Condition Occur?
This condition can develop over an extended period of time and you may be unaware of your symptoms until sometime later. Many people do not realise that their asthma developed as a result of work. Many people who have sustained occupational asthma have noted that their symptoms seem worse during the working week or in the evening time after they have completed a day’s work. Occupational asthma can have an ongoing effect due to the ongoing exposure to certain substances.
What Professions are at Risk?
Certain industries are more at risk of developing this condition due to the different substances in which they work with. This includes;
- Spray painters
- Lab workers
- Nursing and care staff
Occupational Asthma Categories
Occupational asthma is generally divided into two categories.
This generally develops within 24 hours of the exposure to high levels of the particular substance. This type of occupational asthma is associated with the inhalation of gas, fumes and vapours. Exposure to these chemicals is usually caused by some form of a workplace accident.
Allergic Occupational Asthma
This is the most common type and is usually not developed until a longer period of time has passed since the exposure. Over time, you can become allergic to a certain substance in the workplace. According to the Health Service Authority (HAS), over 90% of people with occupational asthma have been found to have this particular type.
Occupational Asthma Symptoms
- Wheezing and coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling of tightness in the chest
What Causes Occupational Asthma?
There are a number of substances and agents which have caused occupational asthma in the past. Many of these substances are only used in certain industries or factories where dust is an issue so only a small number of people may be exposed to them on a regular basis.
This is associated with woodworking and furniture manufacturing.
Latex is usually used by healthcare workers and those who work in labs. It is most commonly used to make the gloves that they wear throughout the course of their work.
There are a number of different chemicals in cleaning products which can cause different illnesses to develop over time as a result of exposure.
Flour and Grain
This substance is commonly associated with milling and baking. Often affects those who work at docks and may be handling grains as it is being imported and exported.
Common activities associated with this substance group are spray painting and foam manufacturing.
There are a number of chemicals in hair dyes which can have an effect on our bodies. Hairdressers commonly develop occupational asthma as a result of this due to overexposure. In order to reduce the risk of this happening, natural hair dyes can be used which have no chemicals in them.
What are the Duties of an Employer?
All employers have a duty of care to their employees to provide them with a safe working environment and ensure that their health and safety is the number one priority. The Safety, Health and Welfare Act 2005 outlines a number of duties that an employer has to ensure this.
- Manage activities in a way that prioritises health and safety.
- Provide adequate training and protective equipment to all employees.
- Implement certain measures that are necessary for health and safety.
- Put adequate procedures in place that should be followed in an emergency.
- Carry out frequent risk assessments.
- Provide information to employees on the potential risks associated with these substance groups.
- Ensure that their safety statement is up to date and includes all relevant information.
Preventing and Controlling Exposure to Substances
As the health and safety of an employee should be the first priority of an employer, they should have certain procedures and safety measures in place to reduce the risk of accidents and injury. If these measures are not in place and you have developed occupational asthma as a result, you may be entitled to make a claim for employer negligence.
- Replace the substance if an employee has become ill.
- Divide the workload to prevent overexposure.
- Provide adequate personal protective equipment.
- Allow adequate break periods.