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Industrial disease is the term given to any illness, injury or medical condition brought about by a work-related activity. Many workers exposed to hazardous substances, environments or work processes go on to develop serious illness that are incapacitating and can severely restrict their quality of life.
Any worker who is diagnosed with a work-related disease may be eligible to make a claim for compensation. Our network of industrial disease solicitors have a proven track record helping workers who have been harmed by their job, and can help to secure the maximum compensation.
What is an industrial disease?
Industrial disease is an umbrella term for a broad spectrum of illnesses and medical conditions that are caused by poor working environments. An estimated two million British workers are affected by hazardous substances in their places of work, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), any one of which could lead to a chronic disease. An obvious example is mesothelioma, a cancer of the lungs that is exclusively caused by exposure to asbestos fibres.
Not all industrial diseases are "diseases" in the strict sense of the word. A poorly designed work process can cause joint inflammation and repetitive strain injury, such as when a factory worker is forced to overreach for items on a conveyor belt. Noise-induced hearing loss, skin conditions, and stress may also fall within the category of industrial diseases if they are caused by substandard working practices.
What are the common types of industrial disease claims?
Any illness or disease can be claimed for as long as it can be proven that the condition resulted from an employer's negligence. Our specialist industrial disease solicitors have helped many workers claim compensation for their injuries, including the following types of industrial diseases.
Asbestos-related industrial disease
Asbestos was used widely in construction for decades before the substance was finally banned in the 1990s. Working with asbestos can release small fibres into the air. When inhaled, asbestos fibres can lead to a number of serious diseases including lung cancer, asbestosis (scarring of the lungs) and mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the chest wall.
Industrial diseases caused by hazardous material exposure
Exposure to irritants such as silica, exhaust fumes, coal dust, solvents, and vapours can cause a range of condition ranging from silicosis, asthma and pneumoconiosis to miner's lung, farmer's lung and cancer. Employers have a duty to protect workers against harmful substances and an industrial diseases compensation claim would be justified if any employer breached this duty of care.
Noise induced hearing loss
Prolonged exposure to noise levels over 80dBA can cause partial or complete hearing loss, tinnitus or other hearing conditions. Workers in the mining, engineering, construction and shipbuilding industries are most at risk; however, anyone who has suffered a work-related hearing impairment may be eligible to claim compensation against their employer.
Vibration white finger claims
Hand-arm vibration syndrome, also known as vibration white finger, is a disablement caused by the prolonged use of vibrating tools and equipment in the workplace. An estimated 301,000 people suffer with vibration white finger in the UK.
In 2005, The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations were introduced to protect workers from developing vibration white finger. Where employers do not follow the risk management procedures set out in the Regulations, they may be liable to pay a compensation claim.
Repetitive strain injury claims
Repetitive strain injury is the umbrella term for number of musculoskeletal disorders including tennis elbow, bursitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Anyone who performs repetitive movements (typing, check out operation, pneumatic drill use) is at risk of developing the condition which causes pain, numbness and cramping in the muscles and tendons of the hands and arms.
Anyone who has been diagnosed with a repetitive strain injury as a result of unhealthy work practices may be able to bring a claim for compensation against their employer.
Who is responsible for an industrial disease?
Every employer has a duty to protect their employees from hazardous conditions in the workplace. An employer may be negligent if they could have put in place reasonable safeguards to reduce the risk of harm, but did not.
To make a successful claim, your solicitor must prove that you developed the illness as a direct result of your employer's negligence. Proving "causation" can be difficult in some cases, as there may be multiple risk factors. For example, certain lung diseases could be caused by smoking as well as toxic exposure in the workplace.
The best advice is to find an industrial disease solicitor who has an established reputation and a proven track record in the field. Such a solicitor will have access to the best medical experts who can help to show both negligence and causation, and put together the strongest possible claim.
What if my employer no longer exists?
In most cases, it is possible to claim compensation even if the negligent employer has closed, become insolvent, or has merged with another organisation. The employer's insurer is responsible for settling any claim for industrial disease compensation. We can usually trace an employer's insurance company through a central database called the Employers' Liability Tracing Office. This information allows us to pursue a claim even if your exposure to a hazardous work condition occurred decades previously.
Time limits for making a claim
Industrial diseases are unique injuries, in the sense that any symptoms develop gradually over a substantial period. Many illnesses are not diagnosed until 20 years after the exposure, and you may not immediately connect your illness with your working conditions. This is particularly the case if you changed your job years ago.
The Courts recognise these complexities, and allow Claimants to make an industrial diseases claim within three years of becoming aware that they have contracted a disease as a result of their working environment. This is known as the "date of knowledge." In many cases, the date of knowledge will be the date of diagnosis.
The law surrounding time limits can be very complicated in industrial diseases claims. It is important that you contact an industrial disease solicitor as soon as possible if you believe that you may have a claim.
How much compensation can I claim for industrial disease?
Compensation will be assessed according to the seriousness of injury, impact it has on your lifestyle, and the estimated recovery time. Due to the wide variety and type of industrial diseases, compensation for pain and suffering can range from a few hundred to many hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Upper and lower amounts for each illness or condition are recommended by the Judicial College Guidelines. Solicitors and insurers use the Guidelines as a starting point when negotiating compensation settlements.
The compensation award will also cover out-of-pocket expenses. "Special damages" can include medical bills, travel expenses, lost wages and the costs associated with ongoing care. Where the ability to work is compromised, special damages can include loss of future salary and pension.
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