• Britain’s biggest union, Unite, has warned that injury at work caused by diesel fumes could be a “ticking time bomb” like the early days of asbestos exposure. And this will be happening throughout Kent & Medway as much as the rest of the UK.

    There are currently a number of compensation claims being made against Royal Mail, a borough council and other employers for occupational asthma and other illnesses caused by exposure to vehicle diesel fumes at work. (Although none are currently known to be ongoing in Kent or Medway).

    A study by Unite has found that affected workers report short term health effects like wheezing, respiratory problems, eye irritation, nausea and headache. Long term problems include reduced lung capacity, breathlessness and occupational asthma. However, much worse may be to come as serious asthma resulting from diesel fumes cause hundreds of deaths in the UK each year. Furthermore, diesel fume exposure can even lead to lung cancer. In 2012 the International Agency for Research in Cancer (IARC) classified diesel engine exhaust emissions as carcinogenic.

    By law employers are required by the Control of Substance Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH), to prevent exposure to substances that can cause health problems. This must certainly include diesel fumes, which release toxic substances like nitrous oxide, which are often six times the level required by European regulations, as carmakers have discovered to all our costs since the VW diesel emissions scandal.

    Expected safeguards would include testing the level of hazardous diesel emissions and then taking necessary precautions in the light of such testing. This could include fitting devices to vehicles to reduce diesel emissions, sectioning off safe workstations, extraction/ventilation and respirator masks. A failure to take reasonable precautions which causes occupational asthma, lung cancer or other illnesses would give an entitlement to claim compensation in negligence

    There are potentially many thousands of people who have been exposed to harmful levels of diesel fumes at work and each year probably many hundreds will develop significant health effects as a result, like occupational asthma.

    Workplaces where staff are at particularly increased risk of occupational asthma or lung cancer from diesel fumes include:

    • garages
    • bus depots
    • post office depots
    • ferries
    • warehouses

    Jeremy Horton is Kent & Medway’s leading specialist in occupational disease claims and has a successful track record with occupational asthma and lung cancer claims arising from toxic exposures at work. He is the only lawyer in Kent & Medway accredited by APIL as an occupational disease specialist.

    If you think you or your family may have developed occupational asthma, lung cancer or some other disease due to exposure to diesel fumes at work contact us on 01622 680430 for a free consultation to see if you may have a good compensation claim for occupational asthma or other respiratory diseases.

    This content is correct at time of publication

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