It can be argued that Britain is facing an occupational disease epidemic. Figures from the Health and Safety Executive showing that up to 20 per cent of the UK's biggest killers, including heart disease, cancer and chronic respiratory disease, are caused by work. In England an estimated 1.9 million people have suffered from an illness that they believe was caused or made worse by their current or past work. Approximately 25 million working days a year are lost, costing the country billions in lost production and associated costs such as compensation.
The top causes of death in the UK are the most common work related health conditions including cancer, chronic respiratory disease, and circulatory disease. The workplace is regarded as being substantial contributor to the overall mortality from these conditions with work related and industrial diseases coming in many shapes and forms including Asbestos related, Cancer, Deafness, Infections, Lead exposure, Lung related, Musculoskeletal disorders, Skin disorders/dermatitis, Stress and Vibration related disorders.
It is estimated that the percentage of total mortalities attributable to the workplace can be put at 8-16% for Cancer, Heart disease 20%, Obstructive lung disease 15-20%, Asthma 15-20%, Musculoskeletal disorders 20% and Skin disease 25%.
Historically mine workers have suffered higher incidences of ill health than workers in other industry sectors. Mining in particular has a legacy of historic occupational disease: asbestos-related, respiratory disease and vibration related conditions. Coal Mining has long been associated with the dust induced lung disease 'Pneumoconiosis' and other illnesses such as work related 'Emphysema' which still have the potential to occur.
The latest wave of industrial disease claims has arisen in relation to miners suffering a chronic knee condition caused by working underground. Miners knee is thought to affect tens of thousands of miners who often found themselves working underground for up to six hours a day kneeling in sludge and cold water or crawling along a coal face less than three feet high.
There are two types of condition: osteoarthritis, in which cartilage is worn away, and damage to the menisci or cartilage tissue that acts as a shock absorber in the knee joint. Typical symptoms include pain, swelling, clicking and locking of the knee. The conditions can be progressive and permanent.
A group action in the High Court is campaigning to compensate affected miners. Similar actions in relation to lung disease and a crippling hand condition often referred to as 'white finger', which identified in the 1976 but not defined as a prescribed disease until the mid 1990s resulted in compensation figures running into the hundreds of millions and claimants' solicitors and personal injury lawyers earning a staggering £1.3 billion. The DTI compensation scheme for ex miners has over 170,000 claims on behalf of workers who had suffered hand-arm vibration syndrome alone.
Politicians including Barnsley West and Penistone Labour MP Michael Clapham have been urging the Government to set up its own compensation scheme to avoid the potentially hugely expense involvement of personal injury lawyers. Mr Clapham has already met with Gordon Brown who he described as positive with more meetings planned.
About the AuthorWe deal in a range of claims, including personal injury claims and compensation. Please visithttp://www.1stclaims.co.uk for further information.
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