Occupational Asthma

Clearly, employers are not only legally and duty bound to provide a safe working environment for their personnel, but they also want to reduce the possibility of any kind of illness that may lead to days off and loss of productivity. With occupational asthma,some sectors are inherently more hazardous than others, such as the chemical and paint industries, where workers can be exposed to dangerous substances.

However, the risk is present in just about every work situation, including the office. It may surprise you what seemingly innocuous items can trigger the development of asthma and subsequent attacks. Taking simple actions and precautionary measures can go a long way towards protecting personnel.

Employers may not be aware of it, but any work environment, from a warehouse or an office, or anything in between if not properly heated or cooled, may give rise to the conditions for asthma to develop in employees. Similarly, not providing proper ventilation and allowing strong odours (such as pollution from road traffic or tobacco smoke) into the work setting may also cause asthma.

Other known triggers include the various types of air fresheners common in many workplaces, as well as something that’s found in many a work setting: stress. Overloading employees with work and other burdens and not providing adequate stress-relief mechanisms may not only lead to feelings of resentment but might also cause occupational asthma. They might even go on to make a claim on the employers liability insurance.

Warning signs to look out for with occupational asthma include sudden shortness of breath and coughing fits, which may be more pronounced at night or when exercising. People developing the condition may also have a feeling of tightness in the chest and wheezing, as well as a general difficulty with breathing. Depending on the severity of individual asthma cases, doctors may prescribe long-term or short-term medications to try and ease the symptoms, as well as to stop attacks when they occur.

Patients will be advised to look out for triggers that may inflame their asthma or cause an attack. If it’s a case of occupational asthma, employers will need to identify what material or substance is the culprit and ensure the affected worker does not come into contact with it again. Additionally, when there are staff in the workplace with occupational asthma, all employees should be fully aware of what to do when an attack happens and trained in what action to take. If it happens and they don’t know what to do or have tried to help the person but they’re not improving, they should simply call an ambulance.

With increasing numbers of occupational asthma being diagnosed, the need to assess the materials and substances used in the work place grows increasingly important.  We have long been subject to Regulations requiring the process of risk assessment to be applied to identify hazards and eliminate or reduce the impact of them to as low as is reasonably practicable.

Our advisors at C&C Consulting will be only too pleased to offer advice and guidance on practical solutions for managing this workplace issue.