What is industrial disease?
When a person is exposed to harmful substances or dangerous practices they may be at risk from industrial disease.
For example, if someone has worked for years with a hazardous substance such as asbestos or has been exposed to loud noises over a period of time and then develops a disease as a result, they could be entitled to compensation if it can be proven that the employer had been negligent.
Workers may not even be aware they are suffering from a disease caused by their employment until years later and they may not even be in that job any more. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t make a claim. Even if the company they worked for is no longer in business they can still be made liable.
A significant number of claims for work related diseases are made every year in the UK. Here are some of the more common industrial diseases that people suffer from as a result of their occupation:
Asbestosis is a type of scarring of the lungs or pulmonary fibrosis caused by the building material asbestos, which was commonly used in the construction industry in the 20th century. Before they were known to be harmful asbestos fibres were used in insulation and various building materials as well as in brake pads. There is no cure for the disease and no medications that can slow down pulmonary fibrosis once it has developed.
When someone is exposed to asbestos, they can develop a cancer called mesothelioma. People suffering from this may have had no symptoms for decades. They’ll have worked in industries such as construction, aircraft manufacturing and shipbuilding unaware that not only they were putting themselves at risk of serious illness but also their families. It has been found that relatives of those who have worked in these industries have also been known to develop mesothelioma, as the result of being exposed to asbestos fibres when their family member came home wearing clothing contaminated with asbestos dust.
Conditions caused by chemicals
Workers exposed to dangerous chemicals are at risk of contracting various forms of cancer including skin cancer, bladder cancer from chemical dyes, and asthma from the inhalation of dust in an industrial environment. An employer must provide workers with the correct protective gear so that any risks are minimalised as much as possible.
Those working in a noisy environment maybe using powerful equipment like electric drills but without the proper safety equipment may end up sometimes, years later with hearing loss or a persistent ringing in the ears which is a condition called tinnitus or their hearing could be damaged by a sudden very loud explosion.
Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS)
The constant movement from industrial tools such as a pneumatic drill, chainsaw or concrete breaker can also result in vibration injuries. This is called Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome and it can cause a tingling and numbness in the fingers, as well as loss of dexterity and possibly the development of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
When someone operates machinery or equipment constantly it can result in the overuse of muscles, and this can be very painful. RSI usually affects wrists, hands, shoulders, and elbows, as well as some nerves and tendons in the upper body.
Who is at fault for industrial disease?
Industrial disease claims are notoriously complex as it has to be proven the employer has taken all reasonable measures to prevent employees from the hazards of the job. Workers should be provided with the correct protective equipment for example such as headphones if the environment is noisy or clothing to shield them from harmful substances. Employees need to be made aware of potential risks and risk assessments in the workplace need to be taken regularly. If the employer does not take these precautions, then they will be seen to be at fault.
What is needed to make an industrial disease claim?
As we’ve explained these claims are often more complicated that other personal injury claims. This is because evidence is needed that the disease was the result of the employment. In fact, years could pass before any symptoms occur and it is unlikely that you will have kept a diary of events. If you can though you should keep medical records and statements as evidence. An industrial disease lawyer understands all this and is able to follow various channels including securing the help of a medical expert whose can provide the evidence required to prove a link between the illness and the work.
How long does an industrial disease claim take?
Your solicitor will be able to assess whether you have the possibility of a claim at the outset through your employment records. Many claims can be resolved in under a year, but if the employer doesn’t accept the findings the whole thing could go to court and that means the claim will take longer.
How much compensation can you expect from an industrial disease claim?
Compensation will vary according to how the disease has impacted on your life, in terms of your health and loss of earnings. Compensation could start at a few thousand pounds but run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Why should you use specialist industrial disease solicitors to make a claim?
Industrial disease can blight your life. It can result in lifelong treatment and reduce your life expectancy. When you employ a specialist solicitor you stand a better chance of making a successful claim as they will know exactly the evidence needed, the experts who may be able to help and how much compensation that you really deserve. Industrial disease solicitors have the training and experience to deal with all the complexities that may arise from a claim and will arrange for interim payments so that you won’t have to wait to receive money to pay for your treatment or compensate you for loss of earnings.
If you are suffering from an illness which you believe was caused by your employment past or present, then find out more on our industrial disease page or get in touch with us today by heading to our contact us page.