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Is Work Making You Sick?

Aug 21, 2008
There are a surprisingly large number of triggers in the work place that can make workers ill. Sometimes the solution is to simply avoid exposure to the substance or circumstance that is causing the problem. Other times it may have a lasting effect on your health such as in the case of 58-year old Joyce Robson.

She developed asthma after being exposed regularly to formaldehyde and other chemicals over a five-year period working in a chicken-hatching unit. She suffered breathlessness, chest pain and became more susceptible to chest infections and will have to use an inhaler for the rest of her life. These health problems, a direct result of being exposed certain chemicals at work, meant she could no longer get out and about or enjoy playing with her grandchildren at the pool. Joyce successfully sued her employers for personal injury and won 25,000 in compensation.

Industrial or occupational asthma, which constricts the airways over a short period of time, can develop within a few months or over a few years. There are more than 200 substances known to trigger it and it's one of the commonest causes of work-related illnesses. The four main categories of triggers are:

1. Biological: which includes things like flour, grain, sawdust, close contact with animals, crustaceans, soya beans, tea and coffee dust. So carpenters, farmers, food processing, fishermen and bakers can be affected.
2. Chemicals: as in Joyce's case. It also includes dyes, paints and inks so could include printers and spray painters.
3. Adhesives and welding fumes: such as factory workers, metal workers, welders and solders.
4. Cleaning materials or chemicals: from drug manufacturers so lab and hospital workers. This range of occupations is huge from farmers and bakers to chemical processors and welders.

If you find your symptoms lessen when you are away from work, then there is a strong possibility that your work is making you unwell. Sometimes it's a simple case of changing to a different job or indeed finding a different substance to work with as in the case of carpenter Dan Hill. Having ditched his job as an investment banker to make exclusive wooden furniture he developed an allergy to wood shavings, even though he tried covering up with gloves, face masks and cream. His job and pursuing his dream became impossible, but by a process of elimination he discovered the only wood he wasn't allergic to was Welsh Oak so he now works exclusively in that.

Another way to tackle this is to approach your employer to improve working conditions by reducing your exposure to the hazard by putting in better ventilation or providing you with protective clothing and masks. However it is possible that even after you leave your job, as in Joyce's case, you are left with health problems as a result of your job. In which case it is worth investigating pursuing a claim. At the end of the day no job should cost you your health or reduce your capacity to enjoy life to the full.

For further information, please visit http://www.1stclaims.co.uk
About the Author
We deal in a range of claims, including personal injury claims and compensation. Please visit http://www.1stclaims .co.uk for further information.
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