Occupational asthma can be triggered by exposure to dusts, gases, fumes, vapours and chemicals, in particular isocyanates. Asthma symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing and painful coughing. Furthermore exposure may sensitise the lungs so that even a small exposure will trigger an attack.
Occupational asthma is an allergic reaction that can occur in some people when they are exposed to substances called ‘respiratory sensitisers’ or ‘respiratory irritants’.
These substances can include stainless steel fumes and chemicals like isocyanates, found in paints and varnishes and heavily used in the automotive and autobody repair industry. Many trades are affected including bakers, spray painters, solderers, woodworkers, welders and engineering workers.
More about occupational asthma claims
The highest incidence of occupational asthma occurs among bakers and vehicle paint sprayers. Flour dust in particular seems almost as potent an irritant as isocyanates. Isocyanates are also involved in the manufacture of flexible and rigid foams and building insulation materials as well as spray-on polyurethane products.
The onset of occupational asthma can be almost instantaneous, although in some cases it can take anything from six to 12 months to become sensitised to a substance before symptoms such as shortness of breath, tightness in the chest and wheezing become apparent.
These cases can be aggressively defended, with the other side citing pre-existing conditions, but none of those arguments relieves an employer of their liability if they did not provide protective equipment or take precautions in order to prevent the harm you suffered.
If your employer exposed you to a substance known to be hazardous to your health and that breach of duty caused (or materially contributed to) your occupational asthma, you are within your rights to make a claim for the reasonably foreseeable losses you suffered as a consequence of their negligence.