Occupational Health & Asthma

Occupational Health & Asthma 

Employers have legal duties towards the occupational health of their employees. If an Employer has caused an Employee occupational asthma there is something an Employee can do about it.

This article outlines duties Employers have to their Employees, the Chemical Agents Act, causes of occupational asthma, what your Solicitor does and the legal time frame within which to take any action.

Occupational Health

Employers have a statutory duty to ensure the safety, occupational health and welfare at work of their employees.  

Employers’ occupational health duties include :

  • Managing work activities to ensure they are safe
  • Preventing the risk to health at work by exposure to a substance or agent that affects health
  • Providing information, instruction, training, and supervision to ensure employeeshealth is maintained
  • Having safety and health measures in place which protect the employee
  • Having a risk assessment in place which has identified workplace hazards. These hazards should be communicated to the employees' as forewarned is forearmed
  • Having a health surveillance system in place

Chemical Agents Act 2001

As chemical agents have the ability to cause damage to health, employers are legally required to eliminate the exposure to such agents or if this is not possible, then to manage or control that exposure to prevent the employee obtaining ill health.

Workplace chemical agents must be identified and the risks must be assessed and a system must be implemented to eliminate exposure to chemical agents.

Occupational exposure limit values (OELVs) are specified and carry legal responsibilities for employers.

Occupational Asthma – Causes

Occupational Asthma occurs when a person’s lungs react to exposure to a chemical substance resulting in inflammation and narrowing of the lungs airways. Consequently, breathing is then problematic.

Occupational asthma is asthma that is caused by a workplace exposure.

Some workplace causes:

  • Exposure to gases
  • Exposure to wood dust
  • Exposure to chemicals such as ammonia, adhesives, shellac, dyes, enzymes, epoxyresins
  • Exposure to hair dyes
  • Exposure to fumes or vapours or a substance in an industrial process


A book concerning medical works by Hippocrates carried the first reference to asthma which originates from the greek work aazein, to pant or have shortness of breath.

Legal Advice

Asthma is a respiratory disease, it will need treatment. It may require moderate or substantial treatment with the accompanying cost. Depending on the factual situation you may not be able to go back to your workplace at all or even worse you may not be able to continue in the work you have trained in.

Your Solicitor will advise you of the responsibilities of your employer. There is a lot of Legislation in this area so employees are considerably protected in the workplace in 2014. If you decide to pursue a case, it will be your Solicitor’s job to prove that the asthma you suffer is a direct result of a work place activity. Your Solicitor will acquire the necessary evidence and set about establishing the building blocks of your case.

If the Court concludes that your Employer caused the Occupational Asthma, it will in nearly all cases be your Employer’s Insurer who will have to pay the compensation and the case will be defended by the Insurance Company on behalf of the employer. An experienced Solicitor will have the necessary knowledge to build your case effectively for you.

Legal Time Frame

If you are taking a case against your employer, you have two years from the date of injury or the date of discovery that the injury was caused by exposure to chemical agents. Two years may seem like a considerable amount of time but a case cannot begin without medical evidence from a Doctor. It may be the case that your G.P has referred you to a Respiratory Physician. Consequently, a medical report may have to be obtained from the physician. It may take anywhere from one month to four/five months to obtain this report on your behalf.

Occupational Health & Asthma

Exposure to a work-place chemical or substance which causes a respiratory disease will make daily work and breathing at the least uncomfortable and at the worst, impossible. Employers have responsibilities for the wellbeing of staff. In addition Employees have responsibilities for their own health and wellbeing.

If an Employer has caused you to have a respiratory disease as a result of his negligence, you are entitled to compensation.

In addition to undergoing treatment you may have to leave your current job or even the type of work you do depending on the severity of the asthma.


Personal Injuries * In contentious business, a Solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.