Diagnosing Occupational Asthma For Proper Work Compensation

Occupational asthma is asthma that is triggered by substances in the workplace. The airways start to swell and constrict, reducing the amount of air that can pass through and leading to shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, and in the worst cases, death. These symptoms are most pronounced when the person is in the workplace and abate when at home, during weekends or when not in the work area.

If you have this condition, you can thank Dr. Jack Pepys, the Father of Occupational Asthma. By identifying the various causes of the disease and the mechanisms involved, he was able to have occupational asthma recognized as a compensable occupational disease.

Prevalence And Types Of Occupational Asthma

Almost all industries can induce occupational asthma but the workers that are considered to be a higher risk for this illness are the bakers and millers, animal handlers, adhesive and carpet workers, carpenters, hairdressers, healthcare workers, cleaners, and workers in the metal, paint, textile, plastics and pharmaceutical industries. About 15 percent of severe asthma cases are caused by factors at work.

Occupational asthma does not develop immediately. It can be weeks to years of exposure before its onset. Work-related asthma attacks are classified into two types: pre-existing asthma and irritant asthma. The first type is the most common. You had been diagnosed with asthma and exposure to a triggering agent causes it to recur. The second type is not an allergy but certain substances in the workplace can bring out asthma-like symptoms and these are treated with therapy for asthma.

Diagnosis Of Occupational Asthma

It is important for occupational asthma to be diagnosed by a competent and authorized doctor to claim Workers’ Compensation. According to Pulgini & Norton, attorneys in Massachusetts, the law on workers’ compensation is designed to protect both the worker and the employer from unjust practices. To arrive at a diagnosis of occupational asthma, a medical history and physical exam of the worker are fundamental. They should include an initial assessment of asthma, an assessment of the temporal association between symptoms and work, and an assessment of workplace exposures (http://www.lni.wa.gov/Safety/Research/files/AsthmaCme.pdf.)

Exhibiting the clinical symptoms of asthma are not enough to make a diagnosis of occupational asthma. There must be an extensive history of prior employment, the tasks in each job. The probable causative agents in each workplace must be listed and tests done to determine which caused the disease recurrence. There must be a proven correlation between the new onset of the disease to exposures in the workplace.

How Some Companies Deal With Occupational Asthma Compensation

Employers are aware that they are responsible for the treatment of their workers who have occupational asthma. Their lawyers may attempt to disprove the doctor’s diagnosis especially if the worker was asthmatic as a child, which is often the case. If you smoke or you are overweight, they may try to use these factors as the cause of your difficulty of breathing.

By showing that your childhood asthma was under control until you started working for the company, or your asthma attacks worsened after your present employment, you can claim workers’ compensation. But it’s best not to take chances that the company will win, should they contest your claim. Getting the services of a competent and experienced lawyer who knows the ins and outs of Workers’ Compensation will ensure that you will get the benefits that are due you.

Citations:
  • Stewart Butterfield. “Offsite Brainstorming”. Photo. www.flickr.com 06 Dec 2005 22 Jan 2014

Marie Miller is an occupational healthcare provider. She writes about hazards at work and in the workplace.