Work-related ill health

Phyllis Craig MBE, Manager and Director of Action on Asbestos:

It is important that there is support and advice for people that are injured in workplace accidents and people who suffer from work-related conditions such as COPD, occupational deafness and vibration white finger.

For more than 35 years we have been providing free and confidential information, advice, practical assistance and emotional support to anyone affected by an asbestos disease and now we’ve extended our services to include those with an industrial disease or injury.

Information on work-related ill health in the UK

 12,000 Lung disease deaths each year estimated to be linked to past exposures at work 

 1.4 million workers suffering from work-related ill health (new or long-standing) in 2018/19 (LFS) 

Some of the conditions that might be related to your occupation

Asbestos-Related Disease

Noise-induced hearing loss
  • 21,000 Estimated number of workers with work-related hearing problems, 2016/17 to 2018/19
  • Over the last ten years, just five of the 1,235 claims were from women.
  • Differences are likely to reflect smaller numbers of women having worked in jobs that meet the eligibility criteria for this condition.
Hand-arm vibration

Exposure to vibration at work through the use of hand-held power tools can cause Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome is made up of two components: vascular effects (also known as Vibration White Finger) and sensorineural effects.

The main source of information on the number of people developing these conditions is the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit scheme (IIDB). The numbers presented for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome include cases caused by repetitive movement of the wrist as well as cases caused by vibration. It is not possible to separate out the vibration-related cases of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

There is limited information available on work-related hand-arm vibration…..annual incidence will tend to be underestimated for a number of reasons, including:

  • Cases arising from circumstances other than those covered by the terms of the prescription;
  • Individuals being unaware of the possible occupational origin of their disease;
  • A lack of knowledge regarding the availability of compensation; and
  • The scheme not including self-employed workers.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • COPD is a serious long-term lung disease which is common in later life and mainly caused by smoking. However, past occupational exposures to various dusts, fumes and vapours have also contributed to causing a substantial proportion of current cases.
  • Chronic Bronchitis and emphysema are common types of COPD. These are conditions in which the flow of air into the lungs is gradually reduced by damage to the lung tissue and air passages.
  • Estimates of the proportion of total COPD cases or deaths where occupational exposures have contributed are uncertain and vary across a wide range of epidemiological studies.
  • A number of reviews have estimated values of around 15%, equivalent to about 4,000 deaths per year in GB.
  • COPD among former coal miners has been recognised for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) for a number of years based on clear evidence of an increased risk.
  • Other workplace exposures likely to contribute to COPD include various dusts (including grain and silica) as well as certain fumes and chemicals (including welding fume, isocyanates, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons)
Work-related Asthma
  • Work-related asthma includes occupational asthma that is specifically caused by workplace exposures and work-aggravated asthma in which pre-existing cases are made worse by work.
  • In 2018 there were an estimated 132 new cases of occupational asthma reported by doctors participating in the SWORD scheme. This is likely to be an underestimate of the true scale of occupational asthma.
  • Statistical analyses that take account of the number of participating doctors suggest there was an increase in the rate of new cases per year over the last four years, and that the rate for the latest year is similar to that of 10 years ago.
  • Each year there are an estimated 18,000 new cases of self-reported “breathing or lung problems” caused or made worse by work, according to the Labour Force Surveys over the last 3-years. A substantial proportion may be work-related asthma.
  • The most common cited causes of occupational asthma by chest physicians continue to be isocyanates, and flour/grain.
  • Occupations with the highest rates of new cases seen by chest physicians were ‘vehicle paint technicians’ and ‘bakers and flour confectioners’.
Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

If you think you may be suffering from a disease or injury related to your occupation, please contact us for further information and advice.

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