AWH Wins Occupational Asthma Case for Tool Setter

Tool Setter
LLB (Hons) & LPC Stacy Pimlott
Case by: LLB (Hons) & LPC Stacy Pimlott

Our COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) team have recently settled a case for a man who developed asthma at work when he was exposed to dangerous substances and fumes.

What was the case?

Our client was employed as a tool setter operator in a factory environment. His employment period was between 1977 and 2018. In this time, he was exposed to hazardous substances, including aluminium and copper dust, fumes from WD40, prosol, oil, welding and metal working fluids. Our client was not always provided with a mask or protective equipment, and the extraction systems in place were not adequate. As a result, our client began to suffer from occupational asthma.

What is occupational asthma?

Occupational asthma is a particular type of asthma that is caused by exposure to inhaled irritants, specifically in the place of work. It can be a reversible condition, meaning that the symptoms can be managed when the irritants that caused the asthma are avoided. Unfortunately, permanent damage can occur when an individual is exposed to the irritants for a long period of time, and they are not given the correct protective equipment. Some classic examples of workplaces irritants that can cause asthma include:

  • Dusts
  • Gases
  • Fumes
  • Vapors

The symptoms of occupational asthma are similar to any other form of asthma, and include:

  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal Congestion
  • Eye Irritation
  • Chest tightness

In some cases, occupational asthma symptoms do not appear until several hours after the exposure, even when being at home after work. During the later stages of occupational asthma, the symptoms may become a problem during exposure to other more common asthma triggers, such as smoke, dust, and temperature changes.

Read more on our occupational asthma page

Employer Duty of Care

This particular case put forward the idea that our client’s employer had failed to reasonably protect them from the dangerous fumes in their workplace. In any working environment, it should be made clear to employees that their employer is legally obliged to fulfil their duty of care. This includes:

  • Making sure that workers and others who may enter the business are protected from anything that may cause harm.
  • Carrying our risk assessments in the workplace that address all possible risks that could be present in the workplace.
  • Giving employees information about the possible risks in their workplace and how they are protected from them – instruction and training on how to deal with the risks should also be provided.
  • Consulting employees on health and safety issues. Consultation must either be direct or through a safety representative that is either elected by the workforce or appointed by a trade union.

This case was made slightly more challenging for our specialist, as our client had been involved in a TUPE transfer – when an organisation is transferred to another employer. However, he used his expertise to successfully locate the correct defendant entity to pursue and did so effectively. The claim settled for £27,000 and our client stated that he was ‘very happy with the settlement.’

AWH was pleased to help yet another client with an industrial disease case. If you believe that you may have suffered something similar, please get in touch with our specialist today.

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